UMBC’s Cyber Scholars program stands out as a national model in “Diverse”

Published: Feb 3, 2017

The ITE building. Photo by Marlayna Demond '11 for UMBC. (The ITE building. Photo by Marlayna Demond '11 for UMBC.)

At a time when just 12 percent of information security analysts are black, Hispanic or Asian, and only 20 percent of information security analysts are women, successful student support programs like UMBC’s Cyber Scholars are poised to make a major impact on the field, suggests a new article in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. The article focuses on this UMBC program as a model for increasing diversity in cyber-related fields through supporting the success of women and underrepresented minority students in cybersecurity, including providing them with opportunities to expand their professional networks.

The UMBC Cyber Scholars program currently includes 40 scholars and 10 associates, and over 97 percent of the scholars and associates in the program have graduated in their intended major, or are pursuing degrees in computer science, computer engineering or information systems, said Cindy Greenwood, assistant director of the program. Of those participating students, 53 percent are women and 40 percent are underrepresented minorities, in stark contrast to national averages for information security professions.

The Cyber Scholars program stands out in higher education because of the variety of elements offered to students, explained Anupam Joshi, professor and chair of computer science and electrical engineering, and director of the Center for Cybersecurity at UMBC. “Many other programs only focus on imparting technology training in cybersecurity,” he said. “Our program is part of formal degree requirements in computer science, computer engineering and information systems” and students can take a broad range of elective courses, which, Joshi noted, “mix instruction in the theory with hands-on projects.”

Each week, Joshi explained, the students in the Cyber Scholars program hear from industry leaders and government officials on topics such as professional development and technical aspects of the field. “They also conduct peer-led workshops in cybersecurity and work with faculty in research labs,” he added. “They are encouraged to do internships in the industry multiple times and get security clearances in the process.”

Alejandra Diaz ‘17, computer science, has been involved with the Cyber Scholars program since she was a freshman at UMBC, and described how the program has helped her grow and access new opportunities. After she met with UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski and Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman, Diaz interviewed for an internship with Northrop Grumman. Diaz has now interned twice with Northrop Grumman and plans to return to the company before pursuing her master’s degree.

Alejandra Diaz_CyberScholar

Read “Programs Aim to Open Doors to Diversity in Cybersecurity” in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Images: The ITE building at UMBC (top), and Alejandra Diaz, left, with fellow Cyber Scholars (bottom). Header photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC, and photo within story by Cindy Greenwood. 

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