UWF student honored with international scholarship for women in cybersecurity
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University of West Florida student Megan Morton is one of three students recognized worldwide by cybersecurity company Morphisec in its 2018 Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship competition.
Morton, a junior from Pensacola, placed second for her entry, a publication about UWF alumna Michelle Ward, CEO and founder of Cyber Safe Workforce, LLC. She will receive a cash award. The competition’s other winners are students in Israel.
“We are thrilled that Megan was recognized with this prestigious Morphisec scholarship and hope that it will further her cybersecurity career,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, director of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity. “Recent reports indicate that women make up approximately 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce. Opportunities like this help recruit and advance more women in cybersecurity, build a more diverse workforce and, consequently, drive more innovation in the field.”
Morton said learning about Ward’s success has boosted her confidence as a woman entering the cybersecurity field.
“Being able to see another female in cybersecurity be extremely successful in her career gave me hope for what I will do after I graduate,” Morton said. “It gave me hope for the future and hope that one day more women will be part of this great field.”
A 2004 graduate of UWF, Ward worked in cyber defense for more than a decade before starting Cyber Safe Workforce in 2015. Based in Fort Walton Beach, the company provides computer security training to employees in both public and private organizations.
According to Morton, she first met Ward at CyberThon, a simulated cyber attack competition, and she later heard her speak at other technology-focused events.
“She encouraged me to be bold and to start being more active in the community,” Morton said.
Ward said she couldn’t think of a better compliment than the admiration of students like Morton.
“It’s an honor to be a role model for students – especially female students who are pursuing careers in cybersecurity,” Ward said. “Part of the reason why I volunteer my time and talk about cybersecurity is because I want others to know that making a career of tech (or starting a business) is attainable and fulfilling.”
Ward says the advice she gives to women aspiring to work in cybersecurity careers is “learn by doing and don’t be afraid to get paid. Put yourself out there, get involved, and take on side projects because most of what you learn will be accomplished while you’re in the act of doing something vs. reading about it. Furthermore, don’t diminish your own value. Demand fair compensation and walk away from places that won’t pay you what you’re worth.”
Morton is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity in 2020. She says she is currently exploring opportunities to become a UWF Center for Cybersecurity student ambassador to bring awareness to the field and encourage more women to pursue their interest in it.
This summer, she has served as a student assistant for UWF GenCyber Pathways to Cyber camps, designed to increase interest in cybersecurity careers and workforce diversity, enhance cybersecurity awareness and improve cybersecurity content and teaching methods for high school curricula.
The UWF Center for Cybersecurity is the regional hub for cybersecurity education and research, including multidisciplinary programs and certificates, research opportunities, outreach activities, and industry partnerships. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated UWF as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.
For more information about the UWF Center for Cybersecurity, visit uwf.edu/cybersecurity.