Before Kanthi Narukonda came to Dakota State University, she was in programming classes where there were just as many women as men. Excited to pursue her doctorate, she went to school on the first day and was shocked. There was only one other woman in her class. Kanthi was astounded by the lack of representation in our computer and cyber sciences. Concerned about the lack of diverse perspectives in her field, she wanted to help encourage and empower women to cultivate interests in this predominantly male field. Kanthi joined a group called CybHER. She saw this as the path towards change, towards bringing more women into the area.
CybHER is a group founded by Ashley Podhradsky and Pam Rowland. The mission is to empower, motivate, educate, and change the perception of girls and women in cybersecurity. Annabelle Klosterman, the current president and one of the outreach leaders, says that she was planning on getting a degree in business when she was younger. One year she attended a summer camp offered to young ladies to explore the world of cyber security. After taking part in these camps, Annabelle fell in love with the cyber world. Stories like this are why CybHER does outreach. The CybHER group’s target audience is young ladies in middle and high school. CybHER holds two summer camps each year, where girls can come and explore the opportunities cyber security has to offer. The first is for middle school girls; they come to DSU for five days of learning and fun. The high school senior and junior camp takes place at the Kennedy Space Center and is three days of hands-on learning from professionals.
CybHER has a team that goes and does outreach events. This team travels to schools to teach students about what the cyber sciences have to offer. They explore everything from cyber escape rooms to programming and so much more. Both Annabelle and Kanthi’s favorite part of CybHER is the outreach. They love how the kids are so open to learning. The CybHER team is always looking for volunteers to help teach at these events. Volunteering is available to everyone on campus.
Another aspect of CybHER is the club designed to help students network, find internships, and apply for scholarships. There are two scholarships unique to DSU’s CybHER group. They also created a database containing many other scholarships relating to cyber and females in STEM.
The name might come across as a girl-only club, which could not be further from the truth. Kanthi says, “we need male allies.” The group’s primary goal is the outreach that targets young ladies. Men can help with that mission. The more support this movement has, the more the gender gap will disappear.
This month the club will have a guest speaker, Angela Marafino, a program manager at Microsoft. The discussion will take place on October 20th. To attend, sign up on the CybHER website under conversations. Then on the 21st, go to the monthly meeting located in the Trojan Center Basement room 111.