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SDN Communications funds Girls in Cybersecurity Camp

April 13, 2015

An overwhelming response to Dakota State University’s effort to get more girls interested in cybersecurity careers has prompted SDN Communications to step forward as a major private sponsor of a free, girls-only summer camp.

“GenCyber: Girls in Cybersecurity,” is one of the first camp of its kind in the nation. DSU professor and camp organizer Dr. Ashley Podhradsky thought 60 girls entering 8th through 12th grades would be a lofty goal. However, registrations for the July camp quickly reached 100. Podhradsky had to end registration and start a waiting list. Eighty of the girls are from South Dakota, but teens from six other states have enrolled.

Podhradsky secured funding from the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation, but she needed to tap private sponsors to cover the overwhelming response. In addition to SDN’s sponsorship, Secure Banking Solutions of Madison is funding a keynote speaker.

“We’re proud to play a role in this local effort to improve gender diversity in this field,” says Vernon Brown, SDN’s marketing vice president. “Women are well represented on SDN’s team, but few of them are in the most technical roles. We want to change that. This is an opportunity to tell girls ‘You can get this kind of education at Dakota State University, do this highly technical work, and you can do it right here in South Dakota at SDN Communications.’ ”

SDN, which is owned by 17 independent telephone companies in South Dakota, has a 30,000-mile fiber optic network connecting businesses, schools, and government offices for Internet and Wide Area Networking. It also provides managed services, including firewalls that keep hackers out of sensitive business data.

A San Diego based Identity Theft Resource Center study says 2014 breaches increased 27.5 percent from 2013. Since 2005, more than 5,000 breaches involving an estimated 675 million records have occurred. The U.S. Department of Labor says information security analysts position growth outpaces all other fields, and national insurance experts now say hacking has surpassed every other business threat.

“No business is immune,” says Brown, “And we want to tap a largely ignored segment of the population to combat it.”

Podhradsky says research shows girls learn differently than boys, and the camp will embrace that.

“Boys thrive in competitive environments, but girls prefer problem solving in small groups,” she says.

She also knows girls need female role models. That’s why she is inviting high-profile women in cybersecurity fields to speak about their technical careers.

“I personally benefitted from a tech-savvy, female role model who gave me the confidence to enter a career where women represent just 17 percent of the workforce,” Podhradsky says. “This camp is a step in getting women more involved in protecting our businesses and economy.”  

The overall goal of this camp is to get girls excited about cybersecurity and encourage them to pursue education within the field.  Dakota State offers several leading degrees in cybersecurity where our students see close to 100% job placement. More information on our programs can be found at www.dsu.edu.


About SDN Communications – SDN is a coalition of South Dakota’s independent telephone companies – cooperatives, family, municipal, and tribal-owned companies. They joined their independent networks in 1989 and created SDN as a hub to deliver long distance choice to the telephone companies’ largely rural customer base. Today that same statewide fiber footprint allows file sharing and Internet traffic for business and government. In fact, SDN provides Internet not only to South Dakota state government offices, but also to virtually all public K-12 schools and state universities. Its 30,000-mile fiber optic network now reaches into eight states serving businesses in many sectors, but specializing in banking, health care, manufacturing, government, and education. SDN also offers Managed Services including routers, firewalls and remote network monitoring. Learn more at www.sdncommunications.com/what-we-do