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News | July 23, 2019

Teaching the Next Generation of Cybersecurity Professionals

By Sydney Cheuvront, Research Communications NSA

Our nation continues to face a shortage of cybersecurity professionals but GenCyber camps, established in 2014, are intended to help address this deficit. GenCyber’s mission is to inspire a diverse generation of cyber stars. “In just a few short years, the GenCyber Program has provided the opportunity for a diverse mix of thousands of K-12 students and teachers across the country to learn about cybersecurity,” Tina Ladabouche, GenCyber Program Director, said. “GenCyber is playing a significant role in increasing awareness of cybersecurity and ultimately is helping build the pipeline of qualified cybersecurity professionals entering the field.”

GenCyber camps are co-funded by the NSA and the National Science Foundation and are held each summer across the nation in 43 states on college campuses, at no charge to students. One such camp was launched by Dr. Miriam Pabón-González, Dean of the Graduate School at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico who also serves as International Alliances Director of GenCyber.  She founded the Ladies Can Code Camp through GenCyber to drive girls toward STEM careers. She sees the impact it can have on our country and on the lives of these young women and their families. “If you want results in the future, you need to start working on the building blocks now. Our children are the building blocks of our Nation’s Cybersecurity,” Dr. Pabón-González said. 

Oscar Morales-Gonzalez, Senior Research Lead at NSA-Texas, has supported the Puerto Rico camp for years. He emphasizes the immense impact it has on the younger generation and our nation as a whole. “GenCyber camps are enabling young children across the nation to believe that they too can be scientists, engineers, and mathematicians,” he said. “This camp exemplifies the power of caring and the vision of dedicated professionals who believe it is possible to create a better future for our children and for our country.”

Diane M. Janosek, NSA NCS Commandant highlights the importance of cybersecurity and the skilled individuals needed to support it. “Cybersecurity affects every single thing that we do…finance, the energy sector, oil and gas, education, medicine, health care, the automotive industry, telecommunications, retail. Everything we do today has a cybersecurity component to it. We really are interested in developing young men and women to understand cybersecurity. GenCyber helps us get there.”

Dr. Deborah Frincke, Director of Research, an early co-founder of GenCyber, recently visited Puerto Rico to see the camp herself.  While there, she participated in camp activities and had the opportunity to speak with camp students. “Camps such as Ladies Can Code are life changing for the participants and for their communities,” she said, “by encouraging talented young women to believe in themselves, learn about cybersecurity, and share what they’ve learned with their families. We gain as a nation whenever we empower our next generation; we gain as an agency whenever we help our citizens become part of our national cybersecurity solution.”