Georgetown started a cybersecurity scholarship program March 15 in which both graduate and undergraduate students will be able to receive tuition and stipend benefits in exchange for working in the public sector after graduation.
The department of computer science helped secure a $5 million National Science Foundation grant to fund the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program which is accepting applications until April 7. The grant will fund the program for 5 years.
Computer science professor Clay Shields and principle investigator for the program said the scholarship aims to make government cybersecurity jobs more attractive in the face of strong competition from the commercial industry.
“The government is in desperate need for people to help defend governmental systems and have a very hard time competing with commercial industry,” Shields said.
According to the scholarship’s application, for every year an undergraduate student is enrolled in the program they receive full tuition support, a $22,000 stipend, $4,000 for travel and professional development and $2,000 for books. Graduate students are paid $34,000 and offered health insurance coverage.
The conditions of the scholarship stipulate for every year a student is in the scholarship program, the student must spend an equivalent time working in a cybersecurity-related government position.
Computer science professor and Director of the Security and Software Engineering Research Center Eric Burger said there are a variety of ways students can fulfill the scholarship’s employment recommendations ranging form cybersecurity work for government agencies to teaching positions.
“It could be people who are working on internet policy or people who are helping states or tribal or local governments do things or even teaching computer science with a cybersecurity component in a public high school,” Burger said.
The cybersecurity scholarship is open to students in the master’s program in security studies and geared towards computer science majors. According to computer science professor Mark Maloof, potentially any undergraduate with a minor in computer science is eligible for the program.
“For undergraduates, in principle, you could major in anything as long as you minor in computer science,” Maloof said.
Students awarded the scholarship are expected to complete two introductory programming courses, one specialty math course and three courses focusing on cybersecurity. Students will also attend seminars on government cybersecurity and technical writing workshops.
The program allows students to attend a job fair once a year in Rossyln, Va., where government agencies can recruit students to work for them over the summer or after gradation. According to Shields, the chance to work in the government allows students to be come more competitive later in life when applying to jobs in the private sector.
“Honestly, the government jobs are really good jobs to go and get to other jobs from, because you get a lot of experience. You get a security clearance if you get one of those jobs, both of which just make you more valuable,” Shields said.
This $5 million for scholarship was awarded in January and faculty from the computer science department have since been working with the university to assemble the cyber fellows program in its inaugural year. Burger said when they applied for the grant two years ago, they explained to the NSF how Georgetown’s mission and goals were in line with the objectives of the NSF.
“We applied for it two years ago,” Burger said. “You do your best to match what we have with what they plan to do.”
In addition, Maloof said this new scholarship has the potential to attract many new applicants to Georgetown who would have otherwise not come.
“We are hoping to recruit students to Georgetown both at the undergraduate and graduate level who would not otherwise come here to study cybersecurity because of this fantastic scholarship opportunity,” Maloof said.
Shields aims to use this scholarship to attract more underrepresented minorities to come study at Georgetown by networking with the Cristo Rey network of Jesuit High schools for low-income students.
According to Shields, the scholarship program plans to have a provision for incoming freshmen from Cristo Rey schools in which, if they express an interest in the program and they perform well academically, they could be accepted into the program in their junior year.
“We do have some provisions we will put in the future for incoming freshmen who come out of the Cristo Rey schools who are interested,” Shields said. “That is kind of to help encourage people who want to study cybersecurity, but are deterred by cost of Georgetown.”
Maloof said students graduating from the scholarship program will hopefully be able to assist the public sector in both the technical and policy aspects of cybersecurity.
“The systems that our federal government uses are under constant attack,” Maloof said. “The scholarship is designed to encourage people to pursue courses of study that will lead to employees that will be able to secure the infrastructure. We also need policy people too.”
Maloof said he is eager to see how the program will be received by students.
“We are all very excited that we got this award, based on the interest that we got from students, people are pretty excited,” Maloof said.