Lee Honored by International Organization for Work to Expand Access to Cybersecurity Education
Mon, 19/12/2022 – 16:32 | By: David Tisdale
A University of Southern Mississippi (USM) administrator and faculty member committed to making more opportunities in technical education available to members of underserved communities has been recognized for her efforts in that area.
Dr. Sarah Lee, director of USM’s School of Computer Sciences and Computer Engineering, was recently named a recipient of the (ISC)²’s Diversity Award, in recognition of outstanding contributions and achievements in the field of cybersecurity over the course of the recipient’s career and specifically designated for those whose work has positively impacted efforts to diversify the workforce in the cybersecurity community. This recognition is determined by the (ISC)² Board of Directors.
(ISC)² is an international, nonprofit organization for information security leaders with approximately 280,000 members.
Dr. Lee is co-founder of The Last Mile Education Fund, which provides financial support to college computing and cybersecurity majors faced with challenges beyond their control. “Fifty-six percent of students nationally with three or more years of college report experiencing basic needs insecurity,” said Dr. Lee explained. “Seventy-one percent of applicants to the Last Mile Education Fund say they have had to worry about having enough food at some point. Since 2020, we have provided more than $2.3 million in scholarships through more than 2,400 grants, and $1.5 million of that has been invested in Black, LatinX and Indigenous women.”
She left a career at FedEx in 2011, armed with a passion to expand participation in computing through higher education in her home state. “I believe there is so much talent in Mississippi, we just need to identify it and clear paths for individuals to develop the skills for higher paying computing and cyber security jobs,” said Dr. Lee, a native of Lowndes County, said.
Her work in this area began with a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project to broaden participation in computing among women in Mississippi, and through that effort she met a young woman from Ocean Springs, Rian Walker, whose journey the inspiration for The Last is. Mile, founded with Rian and Ruthe Farmer.
In support of the 25 percent of Black/African American undergraduate students in the USM School of Computer Sciences and Engineering, the school is an active participant in the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation.
Dr. Lee further detailed the school’s programming. “We offer a Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity and Cybersecurity minors and certificates that can choose any undergraduate major, and with half a million unfilled cybersecurity positions in the country, and the need for cybersecurity expertise growing in every discipline, USM is helping to address this talent shortage by educating the next generation of cyber defense specialists,” she said.
“We also offer talent development pathways for people currently in the workforce or unemployed to upgrade skills and prepare for entry-level technical and cybersecurity certifications through our Cyber4Work program.”
Dr. Chris Winstead, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Lee is praised for her outstanding contribution, not only as an accomplished academic in computer science, but also in her tireless efforts to support a diverse workforce in the field.
“Dr. Lee is deeply involved in improving access and representation in computing-related fields for people of all backgrounds,” said Dr. Winstead. “She is a leader in efforts to build an environment that welcomes and encourages participation from women and other groups traditionally underrepresented in computing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in general.It’s great to see her work receiving this well-deserved recognition from an international organization like (ISC)2.”
For information about the USM School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering, visit https://www.usm.edu/computing-sciences-computer-engineering/index.php. For more information about The Last Mile, visit https://www.lastmile-ed.org/.