Lee Honored by International Organization for Work to Expand Access to Cybersecurity Education

Mon, 12/19/2022 – 16:32pm |: By: David Tisdale

Dr.  Sarah LeeA 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 Computing Sciences & Computer Engineering, was recently named a recipient of the (ISC)²’s Diversity Award, recognizing the 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 association for information security leaders with approximately 280,000 members.

Dr. Lee is co-founder of The Last Mile Education Fund, which provides financial support for 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,” 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. We have provided over $2.3 million in scholarships since 2020 through over 2,400 grants, and $1.5 million of that was invested in Black, LatinX, and indigenous women.”

She left a career at FedEx in 2011 armed with a passion to broaden participation in computing through higher education in her home state. “I believe there is so much talent in Mississippi, we just must identify it and illuminate pathways for individuals to develop the skills for higher wage computing and cybersecurity jobs,” said Dr. Lee, a Lowndes County native.

Her work in this area began with a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project to broaden participation among women in computing in Mississippi, and through that effort met a young woman from Ocean Springs, Rian Walker, whose journey is the inspiration for The Last Mile, co-founded with Rian and Ruth Farmer.

In support of the 25 percent of Black/African American undergraduate students in the USM School of Computing Sciences and Engineering, the school is an active participant in the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation.

Dr. Lee further outlined the school’s programming. “We offer a Bachelor of Applied Science in cybersecurity and cybersecurity minors and certificates that any undergraduate major may choose, and with half a million unfilled cybersecurity jobs 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 upskill and prepare for entry level technical and cybersecurity certifications through our Cyber4Work program.”

Dr. Chris Winstead, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, praised Dr. Lee for her outstanding contribution not only as an accomplished academician in computing sciences, but in her tireless efforts to support a diverse workforce in the field.

“Dr. Lee has been highly engaged in improving access and representation in computing-related fields for people from all backgrounds,” Dr. Winstead said. “She is a leader in efforts to build an environment that welcomes and encourages participation from women and other groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in computing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in general. It’s wonderful to see her work receive this well-deserved recognition from an international organization like (ISC)2:.”

For information about the USM School of Computing Sciences & 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/.