Seven IST students chosen for Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Seven students in Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) were chosen for the prestigious Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program (CySP) in the 2020 cycle. The program is designed to encourage the recruitment of the nation’s top cyber talent and the retention of DoD personnel who have skills necessary to meet the agency’s cyber requirements and help secure the United States against threats of information systems and networks.

The selected students are Brian Fisher, cybersecurity analytics and operations; Kathleen Gallagher, security and risk analysis; Joshua Kopasko, cybersecurity analytics and operations; Eileen Pi, cybersecurity analytics and operations; and David Reggio, information sciences and technology, all from University Park; Joshua Dauberman, information sciences and technology, from Penn State Berks; and Connor Scholl, information sciences and technology, from Penn State Abington. This is the second year that Fisher has earned the award.

The program provides opportunities to students in pursuit of cyber-related degrees at National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Education. Penn State and the College of IST were awarded this designation by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security in 2008 and were recertified in 2014. The designation was established to meet the growing need for knowledgeable and skilled cybersecurity professionals within the federal government and, ultimately, within state and local governments and industry.

“The CySP is a great opportunity for our students and one of the benefits of Penn State being designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the NSA,” said Michael Hills, associate teaching professor of information sciences and technology and co-principal investigator for the grant that supports the scholarships.

“Penn State and the College of IST earned the honor to be a National Center of Academic Excellence because the coursework is challenging and the professors are talented and experienced,” added Gallagher. “I believe this plays a part when the program is selecting awardees from a pool of hundreds of other highly qualified applicants.”

Hills explained that in addition to CySP covering each student’s full tuition and fees, there is also a computer and book allowance and a $25,000 stipend. When the students complete the program, they are employed full time by the agency with which they were matched at the time of selection.

“[The program] provides our students with an unbelievable experience, not only in terms of helping to cover costs of their education, but also in providing high-quality internship opportunities as well as a guaranteed job with the Department of Defense upon completion of the program,” said Hills.

“Being selected for the program has been a blessing for me and a life-changing experience,” said Scholl. “I am so grateful to be working within the College of IST and honored to be working with the [Department of Defense] in the future.”

This year’s selection of seven College of IST students is an increase from last year’s total of two, which speaks to the reach of the college’s curriculum and programs.

“This year, we opened the program and advertised it across the Penn State system,” said Nick Giacobe, assistant teaching professor and co-principal investigator. “We’re happy that the government selected these highly-qualified students from Penn State Berks and Abington, as well as University Park this year.”

Hills concluded, “Our selection rate is indicative of the quality of our students at Penn State who are going head to head with students in more than 100 other CAE programs nationwide. I am excited about the growth in opportunities for our students that the CAE affiliation is bringing to Penn State.”