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Three students win DOD Cyber Scholarships

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Three UNG students have earned DOD Cyber Scholarships for 2020-21.

For the second year in a row, three University of North Georgia (UNG) students have received the Department of Defense (DOD) Cyber Scholarship. Two have received the honor for the second time, while one is a new recipient.

Dating back to 2018-19, when UNG had two recipients, the school's students have received eight DOD Cyber Scholarships in a three-year span.

A total of 186 students nationwide were awarded these scholarships for 2020-21. Recipients receive funding for one year that covers tuition, fees and books. They also receive a $25,000 stipend for a laptop and living expenses.

The scholarship pays for an internship and guarantees a job upon graduation. The DOD Cyber Scholarship 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 DOD's cyber requirements and help secure our nation against threats of information systems and networks," according to the DOD website.

Dr. Bryson Payne, professor of computer science in the Mike Cottrell College of Business and director of UNG's Center for Cyber Operations Education, is the principal investigator for the DOD Cyber Scholarship at UNG.

"This really is a life-changing scholarship. It invests in people who want to work in federal cybersecurity service and who want to make a difference in cybersecurity," Payne said. "They can focus on sharpening their cyber skills. It makes them better cyber employees, and it helps them be able to do more extracurricular activities and be more well-rounded students."

Because of the National Security Agency's (NSA) security requirements, the recipients' names are not released. Payne was allowed to release general facts about the scholars. They are:

  • A senior pursuing a degree in cybersecurity with a minor in business administration.
  • A senior pursuing a degree in computer science with a concentration in information assurance and security.
  • A senior pursuing degrees in cybersecurity and computer science with a concentration in information assurance and security.

"Receiving this scholarship again means so much to me. It has opened the door to an opportunity that I couldn't imagine when I started college," said one of the repeat recipients, a young woman from Gainesville, Georgia. "I couldn't believe that I had received the scholarship once, and definitely not twice. I feel proud knowing that my hard work is finally paying off."

Two juniors and one senior from UNG received the scholarship in 2019-20, which was higher than the 1.4 average of recipients per school with recipients. UNG made its mark again with three more scholarships awarded this year.

Recognized by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security, UNG is a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

Dr. Tamirat Abegaz, assistant professor of cybersecurity, said UNG's continued success at receiving the DOD Cyber Scholarships helps other students realize they can compete for such opportunities.

"We have a track record that our students apply and get the scholarship and internships," Abegaz said.

Upon graduation, the students work for the DOD for a year. For more information on how to apply when the application process begins in January 2021, contact Payne at bryson.payne@ung.edu or visit UNG's DOD Cyber Scholarship page.

"Going into the third year of DOD Cyber Scholarship program, we're grateful to the NSA for the opportunity to support our students with real-world experiences that will make them better cyber defenders," Payne said.

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