First-Generation UM Business Alumna Launches Cybersecurity Career

July 28, 2021

Scholarship support provided Karen De La Luz Martinez with access to a UM education and hands-on learning experiences in her field. Now, the 2021 College of Business graduate is following her dreams and working with KPMG’s Cybersecurity Transformation Team in San Francisco, where she helps clients improve their cybersecurity programs and processes.

Below, Martinez, a first-generation college student from Corvallis, shares how philanthropy helped her achieve her goals.

What inspired you to study Management Information Systems in the College of Business at UM?

I was interested in UM’s College of Business because my dad is a business owner, and it was recommended by a personal finance teacher in high school. Management Information Systems Professor Dr. David Firth’s introduction to MIS course, MIS Professor Dr. Shawn Clouse’s introduction to coding course and my internship with LMG Security in Missoula further sparked my curiosity in cybersecurity.

Karen De La Luz Martinez

How did hands-on learning experiences at UM help prepare you for your current role?

During my time at UM, I learned how to ask for help. When I first started as a freshman, I was really shy, but I realized I would be more successful if I talked to my professors, attended office hours and networked with other students.

While I applied for internships and full-time jobs, Dr. Firth and Estella Anderson, a career counselor at the Gianchetta Student Success Center, connected me with alumni who provided me with advice about interviewing, writing resumes and more. This mentorship helped me navigate many new experiences while I earned my degree and pursued professional opportunities.

How did scholarship support help you to achieve your academic and professional goals?

Scholarship support lifted a big financial burden for my family and me. It allowed me to work limited hours so I could dedicate more time to studying, joining student groups and making the most of my college experience.

Thanks to scholarships, I was able to serve as a student advisor in the Gianchetta Student Success Center, participate in the Montana Information Systems Association, earn certificates in big data analytics, cybersecurity management, cybersecurity of technical skills, and earn a bachelor’s degree in only three years.

How does it feel to be the first person in your family to earn a college degree?

Receiving my diploma in the mail was sentimental because my parents had sacrificed so much to immigrate to the U.S. and provide my brother and me with better opportunities. It felt like our hard work had finally paid off, and their vision of the American dream had come true. Being the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree and a corporate job also inspired my younger family members to work hard toward their goals.

Why is scholarship support meaningful to you and your family?

Scholarships did not only provide financial relief – they proved that a whole community was rooting for my success. Especially for first-generation students, it is so meaningful to know that donors support us. Thank you for believing in our dreams.

Learn More

To learn more and make a gift to the UM Foundation in support of College of Business students, contact Kate Jennings, senior director of development at the UM College of Business, at or 406-243-4569.