Not only is Michael Baluyot ’24 MS (MIS) currently a cadet in the U.S. Army, but he’s also researching cybersecurity in the AZSecure program while pursuing his master’s degree in MIS at the Eller College of Management.
A look at his early life offers hints of how he would merge these two interests.
Growing up as a first-generation Mexican American in Rio Rico, Arizona, Baluyot had a strong sense of wanting to serve his country. He recalls looking up at airplanes and helicopters flying through the sky and imagining himself as a Soldier charting off to his next mission. Little did he know that one day he would be jumping out of planes as part of his career.
“I was building the manifesto for my future,” he says.
Growing up, he wasn’t technologically inclined, primarily due to lack of exposure and resources. However, his uncle introduced him to information systems by helping him build a desktop computer that he used for school and showing him the world of Linux.
“His passion for technology definitely had a huge influence on my life,” says Baluyot. “That’s 100 percent why I’m here today.”
By high school, Baluyot was prepared to join the military as soon as he turned 17. But his girlfriend—now his wife—had other plans. “She wanted to go to college and pursue a degree,” he says. “It wasn’t in my plans but following her to college was one of the best decisions I’ve made!” The two of them enrolled at Pima Community College and later at Cochise College to earn their associate's degrees.
When the couple had their first daughter, Baluyot decided to make a change.
“I felt the pressure of having to provide for my family,” he says. Baluyot saw this as an opportunity to follow his dream.
So he went back to plan A: serving his country in the Army. He walked into a recruiter’s station in Tucson, enlisted, and was shipped out to basic training a month and a half later.
He began his career in 2013 as a signal Soldier in Grafenwoehr, Germany, where he served as a paratrooper with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Airborne. Later, he trained to become a cyber operations specialist and learned crucial cybersecurity skills. By 2021, Baluyot had traveled around the world, deployed in support of the Information Warfare Taskforce, and was ready for the next steps in his career. Throughout his decade in the Army, he has lived in a variety of places, from Germany to Florida to Georgia.
While deployed, he completed his bachelor’s degree in computer networks and cybersecurity from the University of Maryland Global Campus. When he began researching potential master’s programs, he came across the AZSecure Cybersecurity Program through Eller’s MIS Department. The program felt like a match, and “being close to family in Arizona was the cherry on top,” he says.
Baluyot was accepted to the Army’s Green to Gold Program, which allows enlisted soldiers to become commissioned officers, and is now a master’s student in the AZSecure Scholarship for Service track. His current research surrounds visualizing the vulnerabilities in satellite communication infrastructure.
“Working with [Dr. Hsinchun Chen], faculty and PhD mentors has exponentially helped me develop as a professional,” Baluyot says.
He enjoyed his summer internship with Army Cyber Command in Fort Meade, Maryland, where he got the opportunity to work alongside cybersecurity professionals. The experience showed him that everything he’s learning at the University of Arizona will make a difference.
One of his favorite parts of being at the university is walking around campus with his daughters—ages 11 and eight—and doing everything, from going to lunch to attending football games.
“I can pave the way for them,” he says. “They can have a role model that shows them that anything is possible.”
Once he graduates in May 2024, Baluyot plans to continue his career as a cyber officer in the Army.
Along his life journey, he has held on to his belief in manifestation and having a vision.
“Know what you want, dream big, and go for it,” he says.