Dakota State University students walking around campus

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Majors & Degrees

DSU graduate student wins two national honors

June 3, 2019

Francisca Opoku-Boateng was at a loss for words this spring when she learned she had been awarded two national honors in one week.

“This is an amazing, phenomenal package,” said the Dakota State University doctoral student in information systems.

Through the Google Women Techmakers Scholars Program, she will receive a $10,000 scholarship for the 2019-2020 school year, attend a Google Scholars' Retreat, and take part in professional development and community outreach opportunities.

Through the blackcomputeHER Fellowship, she and a cohort of other fellows will explore technical and professional development through monthly trainings on a wide range of tech topics.

A native of Ghana, Opoku-Boateng didn’t expect to receive either because of the large number of people applying from the U.S. and Canada, but is very excited for the opportunities provided by each.

At the Google retreat this June, she will tour the Google headquarters and network with employees. “I can’t wait for this,” she said, “I’ve always wanted to experience Google and see what it’s like.” Through the fellowship she anticipates being able to improve leadership skills and learn how to thrive in a minority environment as a woman in technology.

Dakota State has had students win similar honors in the past, a result of efforts of the university to introduce students to programs and opportunities at a national level, said Dr. Pam Rowland, assistant professor of computer science and cyber security. Students attend conferences such as Women in Cyber Security and are involved with the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

This is an important part of their education because “cybersecurity isn’t a local or regional issue, it’s a national and international one,” said Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, associate dean of The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences. “We want our students to be as successful as possible, and that means collaborating and competing on a larger stage.”

These large-scale efforts go hand-in-hand with small stage work. Opoku-Boateng is active with the DSU CybHER program, which works with girls interested in STEM and cyber security. She has assisted or led activities at over 30 outreach events since she started at Dakota State, and suspects that her efforts with this contributed to her selection.

Her future goals in technology are to “learn all I can learn and give back to my community and help girls in STEM tap into some these opportunities I have received.” These national, large stage experiences are things she can share on the small scale. “If I can give young girls a real-life experience or tell a story of opportunities I have actually experienced, I think that will add more to their understanding of technology fields.”