SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Same town, new opportunities

MINOT, N.D. – Alex Axtman has experienced many firsts at Minot State. 

Most notably, though, he will be both the first undergraduate to walk across the stage at commencement and the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Operations from the University. 

On top of his cybersecurity major, Axtman — a Minot native — will also graduate with a computer science major, a math minor, and a concentration from the Honors program. 

“I was always interested in computers. I was also in the Honors program right away when I started here for a scholarship but then stuck with it,” he said. “I took on the cybersecurity major (in 2020) because there are smaller tracks in the computer science program, and I was doing computer security. I was always interested in the cybersecurity aspect to computer science, so looking at the class requirements, to add it wasn't significantly more. Same with the mathematics minor, there was one extra class.” 

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Scott Kast was there with Axtman in the beginning, having been a family friend of Axtman’s. 

“I had played softball with Alex’s dad for many years. I had also been to Alex’s parents place to update and fix their computer,” Kast said. “I can’t say that I knew that Alex was interested in computers at the time, but I did know that he was very good in school. When Alex and his dad came to an MSU Red and Green day, I found out that Alex liked computer science. At that point, I tried to sell the program to them, letting them know about the career opportunities in computer science. Then I talked him into getting a double major.”  

Axtman’s participation in the Honors Program is to thank for his opportunity to be the first undergraduate to walk at commencement this year, as Honors students are seated first behind the graduate students. 

The Honors Program also has provided Axtman with a class that embodies his experience at Minot State.

“I have community problem-solving with Kristi Berg (College of Business professor), and I think she exemplifies a lot of the core values at Minot State,” Axtman said. “She's such a nice person, super helpful, and she's always happy to be in class. I enjoy that class a lot more than I expected because her teaching is just so cool. She’s just one example of a lot of professors.” 

Another highlight of his time at MSU has been the capstone project for his majors in which he is making his own computer game. 

“One of the coolest things is my capstone I'm doing right now,” he said. “The game itself is fairly simple. It's a 2D platformer, like Mario, and my gimmick, as I call it, is a grappling hook, Indiana Jones style. You can swing yourself around which is really fun, and the way I have it set up, you can pole vault with it too which I think is just as funny. Because it's self-directed, I'm using software we don't use in regular class. It's a part of part of my project itself, to take time to learn how to use it, so I dedicated quite a bit of time to that.” 
Although Minot State was not an unfamiliar place for the Minot native, the University still provided Axtman with opportunities to experience new things — and meet new people. 
“I have met people from other areas across the United States and across the globe,” he said. “I have made quite a few friends with people who are not from Minot which has been a great experience.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/12/22   

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