Meet the 2023 Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS) Recipients


SWSIS: Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security

This year, 15 women were selected to receive Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS). The SWSIS program provides scholarship for women studying for their Bachelors and Masters degrees in fields relating to information security. The purpose of these scholarships is to provide assistance to women at the formative stages of their careers in these fields.

SWSIS is a partnership of Applied Computer Security Associates (ACSA) and CRA-WP.  Its long-term goal is to contribute to increasing the representation of women in the information security workforce.  ACSA founded the SWSIS scholarship program in 2011 and joined forces with CRA-WP in 2014 to lead the selection process.  As of fall 2022, SWSIS scholarships have been awarded to over 150 women studying information security.

The PrinSWSIS scholarship is awarded to a woman aspiring to work in computer security, and by her mere existence, challenging the stereotype of a cyber security professional and helping redefine what it means to be a princess. She is both a cybersecurity princess and a mentor and inspiration to others on that journey.

  • In selecting a scholarship recipient, we consider that women represent only a small minority of the modern cybersecurity workforce at a time when the need for skilled professionals is at an all time high. Separately, we recognize that “princess culture,” a term coined by psychologists, impacts child development and has historically failed to provide strong role models for girls.
  • The PrinSWSIS scholarship was established by Parisa Tabriz, self-appointed Security Princess at Google, to recognize a woman who is broadening what it means to be a professional in cyber security and a modern day princess. In this way, the recipient is helping to combat systemic inequality and level the playing field for future generations.
  • Parisa benefitted from a scholarship early in her career. That scholarship not only helped offset costs during school, it also allowed her to meet other women in engineering and realize she too belonged. Based on her experiences, Parisa recognized the need to support the ongoing development and progression of other women who aspire to do serious work without taking themselves too seriously.

Gwendolyn Vongkasemsiri, Dakota State University

PrinSWSIS Scholarship Recipient

Gwendolyn is a first-year honors student at Dakota State University. She is pursuing a dual major in Cyber Operations and Network & Security Administration while also playing on DSU’s varsity women’s volleyball team. She currently works as a CybHER Leader for DSU’s CybHER Security Institute, an organization that empowers, motivates, and educates girls in cybersecurity. She also serves as an officer for the CybHER Club on campus, in addition to serving as leader of the CTF Cyber Club and member of the Student Senate, Malware Club, and Kappa Sigma Iota Honor Society. Additionally, she is a high-ranking cadet officer in the Civil Air Patrol (the official civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force), a licensed private pilot, and a member of the 2022-23 National US Cyber Team. This upcoming summer, she will be interning in Florida as a Reverse Engineering/Vulnerability Research intern for Raytheon Intelligence & Space.

The Stephen L. Squires SWSIS Scholarship honors the memory of Stephen L. Squires and recognizes his extensive contributions to advancing computer science in the interests of national security.

In selecting a scholarship recipient, we consider the following:

  • Stephen was devoted to family, science, and country. A recipient might demonstrate interest in be interested in a future career in defense or the intelligence community.
  • Stephen benefitted from strong and early mentoring.  A recipient might be involved in mentoring others and/or have a compelling story of how mentorship changed their life.
  • A recipient might have a history of being an “outsider”, for example, exhibiting alternative styles of learning, overcome bullying, or overcome adversity.

Katherine Izhikevich, University of California, San Diego

Stephen L. Squires SWSIS Scholarship Recipient

Katherine Izhikevich is a first-year Computer Science and Engineering Master’s student at UC San Diego. She plans to pursue a PhD in computer security starting in Fall 2024. Katherine is currently working on various research projects, including studying how and when data breaches occur and how to detect unauthorized access to enterprise accounts and machines. Outside of enterprise security, Katherine also studies the security of satellite networks.

The Rebecca “Becky” Gurley Bace SWSIS Scholarship honors the memory of Becky Bace. In selecting a scholarship recipient, we consider that:

  • Becky was the “Den Mother of Cyber Security”. A recipient might have shown her ability to mentor, to create community, to bring groups together.
  • Becky experienced financial hardship which impacted the timeline of her degree, but not her ability to get one. A recipient might be working through similar financial hardships, or helping others who do.
  • Becky experienced sexism and racism, in the context of her geography, her work, and her degree. A recipient might be addressing sexism and/or racism, as an example or through outreach.
  • As a mother, Becky cared for a child with several medical conditions (autism, leukemia). A recipient might be shouldering responsibility for family while working towards a degree, helping others with medical conditions or disabilities, or have them herself.

Jay Connolly, University of Pennsylvania

Rebecca Gurley Bace Scholarship Recipient

Jay Connolly is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at University of Pennsylvania – School of Engineering with a major in Cybersecurity. Jay has served several AI and Cybersecurity internships with NASA and the Department of Homeland Security. Jay has given a TEDx talk, has been featured as a big wave surfer in a surf magazine, and frequently speaks to young women and to students with disabilities regarding the opportunities in STEM.


Bryn Shunney, West Virginia University

Bryn Shunney is a Junior pursuing a B.S. in Biometric Systems Engineering with an Area of Emphasis in Cybersecurity as well as a minor in Computer Science. This summer she will be working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an IT Specialist intern. She fills her time at WVU working in the Biometrics Lab as well as participates in STEM outreach and career enhancement through Alpha Omega Epsilon sorority. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in government or government contracted work.

Isabelle Brown, University of Alabama, Birmingham

Isabelle Brown is a graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham studying Computer Science. She completed her undergraduate degrees in Digital Forensics and Mathematics. After graduation, she hopes to continue her studies and pursue a PhD. She is especially interested in doing research in the areas of encryption algorithms and applying machine learning to cybersecurity.


Nimra Khan, Loyola University, Chicago

Nimra Khan is a first-generation student at Loyola University Chicago studying Mathematics and Computer Science. She developed an interest for cybersecurity while on the Application Security team during her internship with Discover Financial Services. She has furthered her interest by working in a research lab on campus, focused on understanding how misinformation spreads on social media. After graduating in December 2023, she hopes to continue working in cybersecurity.

Elsy Prempeh, University of Cincinnati

Elsy Prempeh is a third-year student working on her B.S. in Cybersecurity and M.S. in Information Technology at the University of Cincinnati while working as an Information Technology Support Desk Intern at Government Acquisitions. She is also the Event Co-Ordinator for University of Cincinnati’s IT Student Association. This summer she will be working at Fifth Third Bank with the Information Security Team, focusing on Identity and Access Management. Throughout college and after graduation, she wants to inspire other minority students as well as first generation college students to continue their interests in Information Security to promote more diversity and inclusion in the field.

Bessy Argueta Tercero, Georgia Institute of Technology

Tatiana Argueta is a Graduate Student at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is pursuing a Master of Science in Cybersecurity under its Policy Track with especial interest in researching the evolution of cybersecurity policies and evaluation criteria of information systems; the role of quantum cryptography addressing Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability principles; and game theory planning, formulation, implementation and assessments when securing information systems.

With an academic and professional background combining Political Science, International Affairs, Marketing, Web Design and Interactive Media, she started a professional career in the Oil and Gas industry in 2015 and transitioned from Web and Marketing into Business Automation, and eventually into Information Security, becoming a Certified Information Systems Security Professional® in 2022. Currently, she is a Network Security Technical Analyst for a major Oil refiner corporation in the United States.

After graduation, Tatiana would like to pursue further education and continue research in Cybersecurity, and volunteering in mentorship programs to promote the enrollment of minorities into cybersecurity curricula.

Fernanda Molina, Carnegie Mellon University

Fernanda Molina holds a B.S. in Information Systems and is now a second-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing an M.S. in Information Security Policy and Management. Her passion for Cyber Security began in high school when she attended cybersecurity hackathons. This coming summer she will be interning at Microsoft as a software engineer in Azure Cloud Security. She hopes that after graduation she can pursue a career in Cyber Security.

Nitya Sunil, Indiana University-Bloomington

Nitya Sunil is currently pursuing a joint J.D./M.S. in Cybersecurity Risk Management at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Indiana University – Bloomington. Previously, she graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with degrees in Psychology and Political Science, as well as a minor in Business. After graduating from Indiana University, she plans to pursue a career in the intersection of law and technology.

Anastasia Sizensky, University of California-Berkeley

Anastasia Sizensky is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Information and Cybersecurity at the University of California, Berkeley. She also works full-time as a Security Engineer at SAP, where she develops automation software to help protect cloud data and infrastructure. She plans to pursue a career in cryptography focusing on useable encryption in the corporate environment.

Veronika Kyles, University of Arizona

Veronika Kyles is an undergraduate junior studying Cyber Operations with an emphasis in Cyber Engineering and a minor Computer Science at the University of Arizona. After graduation, Veronika plans on pursuing a Master’s degree in Strategic Cyber Operations and Information Management. This summer, she will intern at the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS CISA) in Washington, DC. Last summer, she completed an internship with the University of Arizona Tech Core developing AR technology for business applications. Outside of academics, she plays the snare drum in the Pride of Arizona Marching Band and drum set in the Pride of Arizona Pep Band. She has been studying cybersecurity and computer programming since middle school, and believes that diversity in the workspace is crucial for successful team operations, especially in the cybersecurity sector.

Laurynn-Renee Caldwell, University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

Laurynn-Renee Caldwell is an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati studying cybersecurity. After graduating, Laurynn plans to get her graduate degree and inspire other black women into joining the technology field.


Two award recipients would like to remain anonymous, however they are still recognized for their achievements!