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Majors & Degrees

Hovdes among smart, brave women attending DSU’s cyber camps

June 30, 2017

“The world needs smart, brave people in cyber security fields who want to protect others, and enrich the lives of people around them,” said Dakota State University President Dr. José-Marie Griffiths.

Griffiths shared this comment with 112 middle school girls from 15 states who attended the 2017 GenCyber: CybHER Girls Camp June 25-29. This is one of four camps held on the DSU campus this summer: a teachers’ camp was held earlier in June, and two high school co-ed camps, hosting 400 students in total, will be held in July.

The purpose of these camps is to foster interest in cyber careers and increase diversity in the cyber security workforce. The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates there will be 11 million computing-related job openings in the U.S. by 2024, but predictions are that two-thirds will go unfilled. Women are employed in only 26 percent of professional occupations in these fields.

DSU was a national pilot site in 2014 for the GenCyber programs, and in the last four years have introduced more than 1,600 students and teachers to technology tools and techniques through hands-on sessions and guest presentations. The camps are free to participants through grant funding from the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency.

Two of the 2017 camp participants came from the same family, Cheryl Hovde and her daughter Maggie, from Willow Lake. Maggie is attending her second GenCyber girls camp this year, and her mom attended the GenCyber teacher camp last week.

Cheryl had high praise for the camp curriculum and the DSU instructors. Their patience was appreciated, particularly when working with electronic skills like soldering. “That was very hard for me, but they made me feel at ease,” she said, and that support “made me want to work with it and bring it into my classroom.” The timing of the June class was advantageous, giving her time to “tinker” with the new skills and explore new websites before incorporating them into her classroom at Willow Lake, where Cheryl teaches career and business courses, and elementary and middle school computer.

“I would recommend the camp to anyone,” she said.

Maggie praised the hands-on sessions she attended on topics of security, networking and programming, but she also took advantage of an opportunity to develop public speaking skills.

For organizational purposes, the girls were divided into three groups, identified by the names of the women from the 2017 movie “Hidden Figures,” Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson. Maggie researched these women and presented that information to her fellow campers in a speech at a talent show held during the week. “I should know who these ladies are if they were important enough to be chosen for our team names,” she said.

Maggie, an eighth grader, hasn’t decided on her career path yet. She is interested in cyber security, but also enjoys helping people use and understand computers, like her mom does.

Griffiths told the girls, “now is the time in your life to explore and try new things, and have fun discovering what you can do or be to make this world a better place for everyone.”