CybHER Conversations sparks learning, curiosity throughout summer

July 9, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by Dakota State University.

Though she always has been interested in technology, it wasn’t until Olivia Carleton attended CybHER camp in 2019 that she fell in love with cybersecurity.

Ever since, the incoming seventh-grader, who lives in Missouri, has taken to exploring the cyberworld. Most recently, she took advantage of Dakota State University’s CybHER Conversations.

“These conversations have helped me figure out what I may want to do in the future and how long it takes to get there. They provide information about different cybersecurity jobs and other related fields,” Carleton said.

The weekly conversations are part of the CybHER Security Institute at DSU. As part of the Madison Cyber Labs, or MadLabs, CybHER’s mission is to empower, motivate, educate and change the perception of girls and women in cybersecurity by providing them with resources from middle school to collegiate programs and into professional careers.

Under the leadership and guidance of CybHER founders Dr. Pam Rowland and Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, the conversations were created in light of COVID-19 by DSU students and CybHER researchers Katie Shuck, the executive outreach director for CybHER and a doctoral cyber defense student, and Kanthi Narukonda, the outreach director for CybHER and a doctoral information systems student.

When the duo realized CybHER wouldn’t be able to host its yearly summer camp because of the pandemic, they sprang into action with a plan to connect students across South Dakota and the nation through the field of cybersecurity.

“We wanted to make an interactive program for students to continue to learn about what they can become in cybersecurity,” Shuck said.

So far, the program has had nearly 200 registrations from 26 states, one territory and seven countries outside the U.S. CybHER Conversations are recorded and available on the CybHER YouTube channel for anyone who is not able to attend.

“Dr. Rowland and I are thrilled that our research team designed and developed this new aspect of CybHER. Katie and Kanthi wanted to reach as many girls as we could, even though in-person events are not possible,” said Podhradsky, associate dean of the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences and associate professor of digital forensics.

“Their leadership and commitment to DSU is remarkable and has impacted several girls from over 25 states and six countries in the first month alone.”

All conversations offer students opportunities to study multiple career possibilities and different pathways they can take to enter a cyber or tech career.

Participants learn that a career in cybersecurity involves a broad range of skills that are technical but also require understandings of psychology, law, human relationships, communication patterns, investigations, policy development and more.

They also take into account the topics of national cybersecurity, agile software development, artificial intelligence and digital forensics.

“Participants have been encouraged to be bold and curious while being themselves. We look forward to future conversations that will spark interest, encourage growth and motivate students to learn and explore,” said Rowland, assistant professor of cybersecurity and director of the CybHER Institute.

Students also can interact with each other as well as “meet” and ask questions of the cyber professionals. Each week features a guest speaker who is a professional in cybersecurity or technology.

“The best part of attending these conversations is being able to meet the speakers who I otherwise would not be able to meet,” Carleton said. “They all enjoy what they do and help us continue to learn when we can’t leave our houses.”

In June, conversations featured Diane Janosek, commandant of the NSA’s Cryptologic School; Vicki Schumacher, vice president of program and project management at iHeartRadio; and Kelley Criddle, information security consultant and digital forensics analyst at SBS CyberSecurity.

Ellen Arens, program manager of autonomous machinery at Raven Industries, also was a featured speaker.

“I’m honored to be a part of the CybHER Conversations to reach out to students and share my experiences,” Arens said. ” It’s hard to blaze a trail on your own, and it’s important to understand that we are all part of a wider community. Women can bring a diversity of thought to problems, priorities and solutions, so it is critically important that we continue to feel empowered to use our voices.”

Awareness and support of women within similar roles can help those around them maintain strong voices and confidence in their abilities and approaches to problem-solving, she added.

Though students cannot physically attend the conversations, Shuck said they offer a unique chance for students to engage throughout this unusual summer and are a great way to continue to spark curiosity in the field of cybersecurity for girls and women.

“There are increasing problems and threats in cybersecurity that need solutions provided by a diverse workforce. There’s also an increase in workforce shortage, so we must continue to empower and educate everyone to fill the gaps and solve the problems,” Shuck said.

CybHER Conversations are geared for any K-12 student, parent, teacher or anyone who is interested. Conversations occur from 4 to 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Registration for the program can be found on the CybHER website. Programs are in a Zoom webinar format.

July Conversations include presentations from:

  • Matt Paulson, entrepreneur and founder of MarketBeat and Startup Sioux Falls.
  • Buzz Hillstead, senior vice president of information security at SBS CyberSecurity.
  • Dyann Bradbury, director of IT for Ameritas.
  • Alyssa Miller, hacker, security evangelist and cybersecurity professional.
  • Noureen Njoroge, cybersecurity consulting engineer, Cisco Systems.

In addition to listening to the speakers, students are encouraged to follow CybHER on its website, Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to the CybHER YouTube channel for additional resources.

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CybHER Conversations sparks learning, curiosity throughout summer

There’s no cybercamp this summer, but that hasn’t stopped young women from 26 states and seven other countries from learning virtually with DSU.

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