Penn State program to boost federal cyber security receives more funding

Stephanie Koons
August 05, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Anna Squicciarini, an assistant professor in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), and John Hodgson, a project manager in the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) say they are committed to nurturing students in who are interested in protecting the U.S. government’s information infrastructure. A program that they initiated in 2011 to accomplish that goal was recently given a boost by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Squicciarini, principal investigator for the project, and Hodgson, project manager, have received increments of $896,200 and $572,150 from the NSF in support of Scholarship for Service in Information Assurance program at Penn State. The total award amount is now $2,287,892. The original grant was awarded to Squicciarini and Jan Mahar Sturdevant to launch the program. Irene Petrick, a senior lecturer at the College of IST, recently joined the project as a co-principal investigator.

“This program is part of a University-wide effort that really stems from Penn State’s support of the government’s need for better cybersecurity education,” Hodgson said.

The Federal Cyber Service: Scholarship for Service program, which is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, is designed to “increase and strengthen the cadre of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government's critical information infrastructure.” Information assurance is the process of protecting data from misuse by people inside or outside a business or organization.

There are currently about six students enrolled in the Scholarship for Service program, Squicciarini and Hodgson said. The program “supports exceptional students who have demonstrated a commitment to public service,” Hodgson said, by providing scholarships that cover the costs of books, tuition, and room and board. Additionally, participants receive stipends of as much as $8,000 for undergraduate students and $12,000 for graduate students, possibly for up to four years. Students enrolled in the program also benefit from the mentorship of Squicciarini, Petrick and Hodgson, who provide scholars with resources such as field trips, workshops and contact with recruiters.

“The new increments will help support several new students, up to 12 undergraduates and graduate students,” Squicciarini said.

Under the terms of the scholarship, Penn State students who are awarded the scholarship must serve at a federal agency in an information assurance position for two years following graduation. Graduates can pursue careers as information security managers at organizations such as the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Students gain not only financial support throughout their academic career but also personalized mentorship, career and professional development opportunities, and placement opportunities,” Squicciarini said.

Students interested in applying to the program should visit Students from all cyber-related majors and programs are eligible. Applications from women, students from historically less-represented backgrounds and veterans are encouraged. In the 2013-14 academic year, the application window will be from January to February 2014.

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Last Updated August 06, 2013