The Charger Blog

University’s Women in Cybersecurity Chapter Creates Community, Fosters Opportunity

The first in Connecticut, the University of New Haven’s Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) chapter endeavors to increase the number of female students pursuing careers in cybersecurity, computer science, and other technology-related fields.

May 1, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

WiCYs chapter at their first event
The University’s WiCyS chapter’s first event drew students, alumni, and participants from other schools.

Jillian Jacques ’20 took a day off from her job as a software engineer earlier this semester to spend the day at her alma mater connecting with her fellow Chargers.

Jacques began working at Travelers, a leading insurance company, in January after completing her degree in computer science from the University of New Haven in December. An original member of the University’s Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) chapter, the first in Connecticut, she was eager to attend the chapter’s first event, held February 25 in the University’s Samuel S. Bergami Jr. Cybersecurity Center.

“There is still a minority of women in this field, despite efforts to include more women,” she said. “Events like this are helpful, and they remind us that even though we are a minority, we are not alone.”

Jacques was among the members of the University community who attended “Women Unite Over Capture the Flag (CTF) 2.0,” along with current graduate and undergraduate students. Conducted as a “capture the flag” competition, the event was an online cybersecurity contest that also drew participants from schools such as Smith College and Southern Connecticut State University.

Courtney Hassenfeldtt and Jillian Jacques attending WiCys online competition.
Courtney Hassenfeldt ’18, ’20 M.S. and Jillian Jacques ’20 (right) took part in WiCyS’s online “capture the flag” competition.

“We wanted to have a place for women to get together,” said Syria McCullough ’19, ’22 M.S., a candidate in the University’s graduate program in cybersecurity and networks and president of the University’s WiCyS chapter. “This was a great way for us to help each other with the competition and to network.”

Though the University’s WiCyS chapter is still young, it has already been quite active. The competition was one of several events the chapter held on campus earlier this semester, before the University transitioned to online learning amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

The chapter also hosted a mentoring roundtable discussion with the International Women’s Forum’s Connecticut chapter that included prominent women in technology. They discussed topics such as work/life integration, important lessons they have learned, and what has helped them to succeed.

Group shot of WiCys chapter at roundtabl discussion
The University’s WiCyS chapter hosted a mentoring roundtable discussion with the International Women’s Forum’s Connecticut chapter.

Liberty Page, M.S., a lecturer at the University and faculty advisor for WiCyS, says the group, which includes men and women, is focused on outreach, creating meaningful opportunities for networking, and making students feel welcome. She has been active for several years in the University’s NSA-funded GenCyber Agent Summer Academy that encourages young women and individuals from underrepresented populations to explore opportunities in the field.

“As a woman in the field of technology, I am aware of how underrepresented women are in cybersecurity,” she said. “We want all students to support each other, and we want to foster teamwork.”

Professor Page has been working with Abe Baggili, Ph.D., Elder Family Endowed Chair and assistant dean of the University's Tagliatela College of Engineering, to encourage female students to consider careers in cybersecurity or computer science. For Dr. Baggili, the father of two daughters, this mission is personal.

“As a cybersecurity community, it’s everyone’s job to promote diversity and an environment that welcomes diverse ideas,” said Dr. Baggili. “We want women to be a part of cybersecurity. I look forward to even more activities that broaden the University’s cybersecurity community.”