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Two join ranks of CyberCorps® scholars at DSU

March 7, 2024

Two Dakota State University students have joined the ranks of CyberCorps® scholars. This Scholarship for Service program allows students to receive financial support as they prepare to start their cybersecurity careers in the government sector.

Angela Slattery, a junior Computer Science major from Franksville, Wis., and Tristan Stapert, a senior Cyber Operations major from Tumwater, Wash., are among 16 CyberCorps® scholars currently on campus and 124 DSU students who have participated in the program.

Angela Slattery and Tristan Stapert

The DSU program is among the largest in the country, according to Dr. Michael Ham, Associate Professor in The Beacom College of Computer & Cyber Sciences. While students benefit directly with a stipend and allowance for professional development in addition to having tuition and education-related fees covered, he believes offering the program benefits the University as well.

Students who hope to enter the public sector in the fields of computer and cyber science choose to apply to DSU because they know they will have the opportunity to apply for the scholarship. That was true for Stapert, who was interested in cybersecurity while still in high school.

“I kind of wanted to go to a school that offered it,” he said. He also knew that he was going to be responsible for paying for his college education.

While visiting relatives in South Dakota, he learned about the program at DSU. In researching the University, he learned it not only offered the program he wanted, but was also less costly than universities he was considering in his home state. Too, the opportunity to apply for a CyberCorps® scholarship appealed to him.

“I’ve always wanted to do impactful work,” Stapert said.

In any given year, between 45 and 65 students apply for the scholarship, according to Ham. The number selected depends upon available funding. The CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service program is a federally funded program managed by the National Science Foundation and offered in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Students awarded a scholarship are required to work in the government sector for a period of time equal to the length of the scholarship. Students may receive up to three years of support for undergraduate and graduate studies. Ham believes federal agencies benefit from the program.

“They get some of the most highly qualified students for their workforce needs,” he said.

Students selected for the scholarship are evaluated on more than just academics, Ham explained. Other factors include whether students choose to participate in cybersecurity competitions, conduct research, or mentor younger students.

Through contact with program graduates, Ham has discovered that many stay in public service jobs after completing their obligation even though they could earn more in the private sector. He believes this is related to the quality of their experience and the challenges posed by the problems they are tasked with addressing.

Slattery, a starter on the DSU women’s basketball team, is already looking forward to working for the federal government. Having completed a summer internship in the private sector, she knows she wants to work for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The work you do there is really impactful,” she said.

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