IU student strengthens cybersecurity in her rural hometown


Student Spotlight: Izzy Blazey

This year, a recent IU graduate got the chance to help strengthen cybersecurity in her rural hometown of Jasper, Indiana.

Izzy Blazey graduated in the spring of 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and global policy. In her final semester, she joined the IU Cybersecurity Clinic, which uses a service-learning model to provide free cybersecurity assistance to critical public infrastructure and community organizations.

Through the clinic, Izzy and a team of fellow IU students worked closely with officials to help Jasper hone its approach to choosing an emergency alert system that will meet its citizens’ need for immediate critical information while also protecting local security infrastructure.

“Knowing that our work could directly benefit the community that means so much to me was truly rewarding,” Izzy said, adding that every interaction with community members and city officials “felt like a chance to make a positive impact and strengthen the place I call home.”

The end result was a tailored rubric for assessing the cybersecurity capabilities of third-party emergency management vendors. The rubric is versatile enough that Jasper can use it as a tool to evaluate other third-party vendors, strengthening the city's overall readiness against cyber threats.

Knowing that our work could directly benefit the community that means so much to me was truly rewarding.

Izzy Blazey, Cybersecurity and Global Policy graduate

“This approach ensures that cybersecurity considerations are integrated across different aspects of the community's operations, enhancing overall resilience and security,” Izzy said.

The collaboration between IU and the City of Jasper was part of the IU Center for Rural Engagement’s Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative. This program partners IU faculty, students, and staff with local communities across Indiana to tackle real-world challenges and enrich the health, prosperity, and vitality of the region.

For Izzy, working with Jasper residents drove home the importance of gathering input from those whose daily lives would be affected by the project’s outcome. She said the project was a team-wide effort that required a rural viewpoint.

“Collaborating with peers and community members showed me the power of diverse perspectives in tackling complex cybersecurity issues effectively,” she said. “We could not have been effective without the work of everyone to complete this task.”

One of the challenges they faced was realizing how difficult it can be for rural communities to access information and resources specific to cybersecurity. Unlike urban settings, where this data and expertise is often easily accessible, rural communities can face obstacles in finding appropriate support. “That's why I believe the rubric we developed is such a valuable resource for Jasper,” Izzy said.

Newly graduated, Izzy is on her way to Washington D.C. where she’ll work as a cybersecurity engineer at MITRE Corporation. It’s a not-for-profit federally funded research and development center that helps multiple agencies.

“My involvement in the IU Cybersecurity Clinic has reinforced my commitment to making a meaningful impact in the field," she said.

As she embarks on the next chapter of her journey, she carries a newfound appreciation for the needs of rural communities.

"Working with rural Indiana communities such as Jasper has been an eye-opening journey filled with invaluable lessons and experiences,” she said. “From collaborating with local stakeholders to addressing pressing community needs, this opportunity has provided me with a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by rural areas."

The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities with which it engages to ensure long-term success.