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In 2012, Gokcen Matthews decided to reach for the American Dream. Originally from Turkey, Matthews moved to the United States to open her own business. After living in the United States for nearly 11 years, she expressed a desire to earn a bachelor’s degree in business and to delve into the world of cybersecurity. This desire led to her joining the Northern Virginia BIT-Cyber cohort, transferring from Northern Virginia Community College.

Matthews has enjoyed her time completing her studies with Virginia Tech from her home in Northern Virginia. Her class experience has been nothing short of positive, and the remote learning environment has been good for family time, Matthews noted. As her two children sit down to do their homework, Matthews is right there with them finishing her classwork. However, the trade-off from a traditional classroom to a virtual environment is having to work through problems on her own.

“Right now, we have to study by ourselves, try to solve our problems, and work by ourselves,” Matthews commented. “But, you can always get an appointment and talk with your professor. That's a good thing about Virginia Tech. I’m very happy with that because when I’m stuck on a problem or I don't understand something, I can get help from the professors because they have Zoom times for us.”

Being in the BIT-Cyber program includes bountiful internship, career, and networking opportunities. Professors and advisors consistently work with students to provide resources and guidance for not only the coursework but for future jobs as well. This aspect is something that Matthews appreciates greatly.

“Virginia Tech is helping the students find a job after graduation, and the school is doing a lot of great things, like arranging meetings with recruiters and, whenever there is an opportunistic event, they let us know about it. They're always supportive, and I love it.”

Gokcen Matthews
Gokcen Matthews

Matthews recognized that the field of business in the United States is very different from Turkey’s, where she originally obtained her business education. However, her driving motivation to go back to school and join the program lies in her determination to expand her skillsets.

With an innate interest in informational technology, Matthews explains that “I’m already a business professional, but I would like to add another skill to what I know. Cybersecurity is the one I was always interested in because IT and cybersecurity are golden jobs right now. At the end of the day, I want to be an experienced businessperson with IT skills. This is what my goal is.”

As Matthews strives towards her goal, she looks back on the journey that’s brought her here with a smile.

“I’m proud of myself,” Matthews said. “I’m 41, almost, you know. I sometimes see in classes that we have 500 people, and all of them are younger than me. And I have two kids, I can't wait until the day I graduate, and my kids will say, ‘Hey, that’s my mama, that’s my mama!’ This is what I want to do.

“And I love being a part of Virginia Tech, it’s an amazing school. Everyone is so helpful, and the professors are amazing people. I’m happy and I feel proud to be part of the Hokie community.”

- Written by Virginia Nguyen