Diversity & Inclusion
Cybersecurity / DEI / Education / Universities

Two nonprofits teamed up to offer HBCU tech students $20K in scholarships

The National Cybersecurity Alliance and One In Tech are launching the program, offering $2,000 scholarships to students at public and private universities throughout the South.

Texas Southern University students, professors and administrators during its fall 2022 commencement. (Photo by Flickr user TSU Marketing & Communications, used via a Creative Commons license)

In the hopes of bridging pipeline gaps, the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) and One In Tech launched a new program for collegiate cyber students.

The NCA, which is headquartered in DC, partnered with Chicago-area One In Tech to create a $20,000 program for students of HBCUs studying cybersecurity. At least nine schools throughout the Southern states will each receive $2,000 through the initiative, which builds on the NCA’s “See Yourself In Cyber” program which offers mentorship and educational events about cyber to help students enter the industry

NCA Executive Director Lisa Plaggemier said that adding this scholarship initiative will expand the reach of the See Yourself in Cyber program, making cyber careers more accessible for HBCU students as they learn about the industry’s ever-growing possibilities.

“Frankly, most college-age students only know what they see on TV and in the movies about careers in cybersecurity,” Plaggemier told Technical.ly. “They really don’t understand that much about it, and it’s a super exciting space to work in.”

Bennett College, Claflin University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Central University, Prairie View A&M University, St. Philip’s College, Southern University and A&M College, Texas Southern University and Winston-Salem State University were selected for participation. One in Tech is currently raising money to support program expansion as well.

Ginger Spitzer, executive director of One In Tech, said applications will open for students online, followed by a virtual evaluation process featuring judges from NCA and One In Tech parent ISACA. The initial application, though, is heavily weighted on essay answers to questions about what challenges students face while pursuing a cyber career. This will help judges understand which students are really trying to move forward but face blockages or challenges outside of their control.

“Our scholarships are not looking for the best of the best students, who have gotten perfect grades and have really been able to do that,” Spitzer said. “We’re looking for those students that are persistent through challenges.”

Most of the current schools are public universities in the Carolinas, Texas and Louisiana. Prominent HBCUs like Howard University and Morehouse College were left off the list. Plaggemier said this was intentional, as those schools tend to get more attention from corporations, while many other HBCUs also boast students ready to enter the workforce.

“We’re doing that very purposefully because when a lot of large corporations decide that they’re going to do some good in the world and they want to do something for HBCUs, a lot of the funding goes to that handful of schools and they have large endowments,” Plaggemier said. “But there’s over a hundred HBCUs and some of them are small and in very rural locations.”

Spitzer and Plaggemier hope this program will become an annual one, or even expand to three times a year — the frequency with which One In Tech offers other scholarships. While the $20,000 program is a “drop in the bucket,” Spitzer said, she hopes it can grow and set an example for others looking to support HBCU cyber students.

“You can’t just talk about the problem, you actually have to take steps, however small, to remedy the problem,” Spitzer said. “And looking to our other partners to share this is as important as doing it because we want other people to do it as well.”

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