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Excellence In and Out of the Classroom

Classrooms, Soccer Fields, and Cyber Ranges

An Honors student, past BYUISA President, soccer enthusiast, and Information Technology Major, Dezhang Wen excels at building relationships with others to foster further growth, development, and connections.

Dezhang is an international student from China, majoring in Information Technology and minoring in Computer Science, but his love for learning and connections beyond his own field led him to the Honors Program. Dezhang noted, “The Honors Program gave me the chance to broaden my views, expand my ways of approaching problems, and also challenge my knowledge of new and unfamiliar fields.” He loves the “intertwined ways of thinking and learning” involved in the classes, as they associate expansive topics with discrete ideas. He noted in particular the Unexpected Connections Courses. He says, “They were just so unique and fascinating-- I enjoyed learning so much more in those classes than most of my other classes.”

One Unexpected Connections course had a particularly significant impact on Dezhang’s way of thinking. The “Music and Race” course challenged him to reevaluate the way he thought about fields of study unrelated to his own. One of the fundamental questions this class explored was “What roles does music play on the issue of racial discrimination?” Dezhang explained, “As a colored person myself, I never considered that there were any connections between music and racial issues. Yet, when Drs. Rugh and Howard had us listen to the lyrics of some hip-hop songs about money and gang violence, and then asked the students why most people, including the students in class at that time, assumed the artists of these songs were African-American, my mind immediately was blown. This concept was something that had never crossed my mind. I then began to wonder: could this be considered a form of racial discrimination?” Since this experience, Dezhang’s attitude toward racial discrimination has completely changed. He recognizes that many other Honors classes also changed his attitudes and views towards various topics.

Dezhang’s passion for learning and excellence extend well beyond academics. He enjoys reading mystery and sci-fi novels, and used to play ping pong competitively! Dezhang has sought to make connections in all the other programs in which he’s been involved. He served as the President of the BYU International Student Association (BYUISA) from Fall 2019 to Winter 2020. During that time, he initiated a new program called the BYUISA World Cup. On the surface, it appeared to be a casual soccer tournament, designed to help international students to get to know one another. It turned out to be an exceptional means for students to befriend those of different backgrounds, to branch out from their own peer groups, and to foster connections among nearly 70 BYU students who otherwise may never have met! Dezhang indicated how grateful he is to have been a part of this successful experience as he learned to become a better leader and to serve his community.

Dezhang has also collaborated with professionals to further understanding and interrelatedness within his own field of study. He worked with Dr. Justin Giboney, an Associate Professor in IT & Cybersecurity, and a handful of other students on a project that is now an elective class in the Information Technology major’s curriculum, and continues as a research assistant for Dr. Giboney. Dezhang is now working on his thesis project, focused on researching, building, analyzing, and assessing an automated cyber range-- a virtual environment where real-life cyber-attacks and defenses are simulated, and ultimately automated. In a world mediated by digital technologies, cybercrimes are on the rise. Dezhang’s virtual cyber range will help professionals practice defending against attacks in a safe environment, a key to fending off attacks in the future.

From cyber-ranges to soccer, and from ping-pong to Honors courses, Dezhang is truly a student-scholar cultivating excellence and leadership to build connections.