Jul 27, 2020
Dmitriy Ivanov

Assumption to Empower Underrepresented and Next Generation of Cybersecurity Leaders

This summer, high school students can get a taste of University classes and explore the exciting field of cybersecurity. Assumption’s cybersecurity program is offering a virtual experience for 35 ninth-grade girls participating in Girls Inc. of Worcester’s Eureka! program from July 27 to 31, to introduce the vast career options provided by the cybersecurity field.  

“Cybersecurity continues to evolve in its global influence and importance with a number of lucrative career opportunities,” said Raymond Albert, Ph.D., professor of practice and director of the cybersecurity program at Assumption University.  “Traditionally underrepresented in the cybersecurity industry, women have and continue to make meaningful contributions to the development of new technology to identify, prevent and mitigate cyberattacks. The University looks forward to sharing with those in the Eureka! program the many opportunities that exist for their pursuit.” 

According to Girls Inc. of Worcester, Eureka! is a year-round, five-year STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) intensive program that engages and empowers eighth through 12th grade girls. The elite program encourages the development of confidence and leadership skills through STEM-related academic opportunities, such as Assumption’s cybersecurity camp. 

“The goal of the Eureka! program is to expose these students to as many career options and opportunities as possible,” said Yaa Poku, assistant director of site-based programs Eureka STEM & Leadership. “Our program is STEM- and leadership-based and we had received requests from the kids to more programming along the lines of coding. Seeing we partner with colleges and universities in the Worcester Consortium, and the University has a unique cybersecurity program, we found partnering with Assumption a natural fit and look forward to our first year of collaboration.”

The program includes five days of cybersecurity lessons presented in a virtual environment. The one-hour sessions will include an overview of the field of cybersecurity from Yatia (Tia) Hopkins, vice president of global solutions engineering at eSentire and one of The Software Report’s “Top  25 Women Leaders in Cybersecurity 2020”; interactive exercises using introductory computer programming software, Scratch; roundtable conversations with Assumption cybersecurity students; a lesson on the digital world of bits, bytes, encryption, and binary bracelets; as well as prizes, games, and more.

“Cybersecurity remains a male-dominated profession and it continues to be very much in need of new talent, especially from under-represented populations,” shared Prof. Albert. “Programs such as Girls Inc. of Worcester’s Eureka! are uniquely positioned to empower and inspire future leaders in the field of cybersecurity.”

While Prof. Albert will lead and orchestrate the overall program, his goal is for the participants to engage with industry leadership and the young women currently enrolled in Assumption’s cybersecurity program, who will lead and support many of the activities.  “It is essential for the participants to be able to ‘see’ themselves in the program and industry in the future and to know great success in the cybersecurity field is achievable,” he said. 

In May, Assumption hosted a free four-day virtual CyberCamp for more than 50 students across the country. The program helped raise their awareness of and interest in cybersecurity by covering topics such as setting up a cybersecurity lab, techniques and defenses against password cracking, online credential harvesting, security programming and drone security. 

Assumption’s cybersecurity program, which is one of only three programs in Massachusetts with a curriculum aligned with the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security’s Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense program, offers a technology-based education that prepares the next generation of leaders in this important and ever-changing field.  The program engages students in finding solutions and encourages innovation in the world of digital information. In addition to an on-campus and a fully online bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, Assumption University’s Cybersecurity Center aims to promote and implement innovative education and research in the realm of Cyber Defense Education.