Deadline is February 1 for Cyber Scholarship Program applicants.
Senior computer science major Erin Kremer is the University of South Carolina’s inaugural participant in the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program (DoD CySP). The scholarship is used for recruiting skilled cybersecurity professionals to combat growing threats against the nation’s information systems and infrastructures. Following graduation, students are required to work a minimum of one year for the DoD for each year of scholarship support received.
Kremer credits her undergraduate research and early interest in the cybersecurity field for being a 2022-23 scholarship recipient. She was intrigued by cybersecurity prior to college and had early roles in the field. During the summer following her high school graduation, she interned for Illinois-based North Star Cyber Security and has worked directly with the owner and founder to understand cybersecurity concepts. Kremer has since interned for the Naval Information Warfare Center in Charleston as well as the DoD. On campus, she serves as both a teaching assistant and supplemental instruction leader.
“I try to share my experience with other students who are interested in applying for this scholarship,” Kremer says. “I had one federal internship prior to applying, and I believe that helped demonstrate to the selection committee that I was serious about this kind of work, beyond my year of service required by the scholarship.”
Kremer is part of Computer Science and Engineering Professor Csilla Farkas’ undergraduate research team. The DoD funds the team’s research on the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure, such as facilities that operate energy, water, transportation and finance systems. The team is studying how these systems have been attacked historically, while proposing mitigation strategies to make them more secure. This includes eliminating outdated practices and standardizing new ones.
“In addition to Erin’s impressive academic record, she has clearly demonstrated her interest in federal employment and cybersecurity through internships and other programs. She is one of the most inspiring students I've met during my career,” Farkas says.
Kremer will graduate this May, and her job with the DoD will begin in August. Farkas and Kremer are encouraging other students to apply for the DoD CySP to promote higher education in cybersecurity and enhance the DoD’s ability to protect the nation’s digital infrastructure.
“Our dependence on computer technology has increased rapidly over the past two decades, but cybersecurity capabilities have not been developed at the same rate,” Farkas says. “Defending our systems requires both deployment of technology and understanding how these technologies might be attacked. We need comprehensively trained individuals to develop both defensive and offensive cybersecurity capabilities.”
Farkas emphasizes that the scholarship is a great opportunity for students. In addition to the scholarship stipend, students receive full tuition coverage and funds for health care, books, and a laptop. The scholarship also offers a job opportunity following graduation where recipients will develop a highly marketable skillset. Kremer is already experiencing the scholarship’s benefits.
“One obvious benefit is the tuition money and stipend, but even more so is the weight off your shoulders as a senior,” she says. “It’s a very stressful time, but I know exactly where I’m going to be and my job description. I also have an instant connection with other DoD scholars, so it’s a great networking tool.”
The scholarship offers several advantages, but the bigger picture is advancing the ever-changing cybersecurity field. “In this field, you have to constantly learn and change direction, and young people are typically the least change-averse. We need to carry the torch and further the field to ensure our systems are secure,” Kremer says.
The DoD CySP is sponsored by the DoD Chief Information Office and administered by the National Security Agency. It is open to U.S. citizen students who are not DoD or government employees and who are enrolled in a cyber program offered by universities designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity.
USC’s Center for Information Assurance Engineering (CIAE) is soliciting scholarship applications for the 2023-24 academic year. The deadline to apply is February 1. Contact Csilla Farkas for additional information on the DoD CySP scholarship.