Capella University is proud to announce Grace Rubio and Leeandra Wesley as the first winners of two new scholarships for women pursuing careers in Information Assurance and Security. The Dr. Mary Brown Memorial Scholarship, honoring a Capella faculty member and award-winning information security pioneer, is a full-ride award to encourage more women to rise in this specialized field.
Rubio and Wesley are both emerging leaders in information security, a sector in which women represent only 10% of the workforce today.
Grace Rubio hails from Plano, Texas, and graduated with a bachelor’s in electrical and computer engineering with an eye towards working in the medical device field. But in 2010, she took an opportunity to work as a computer forensic investigator and never looked back.
“I’ve worked on so many types of investigations,” Rubio says. “Cases run the gamut—family law, employment law, intellectual property theft, antitrust, even child pornography. I’ve worked as a testifying expert for more than 5 years.”
When her boss pointed out that Capella had a master’s in digital forensics, a degree that would give her deeper knowledge and even more credibility in the field, she jumped at the chance to enroll. She began her program in August 2015, with a goal of graduation by the end of 2018. The Dr. Mary Brown Memorial Scholarship will cover her tuition and fees through graduation.
On top of an impressive career, Rubio also regularly takes time from her packed work, school, and family schedules to promote the tech field to other young women. “I’m well aware that women are under-represented in this field, so I’m very active trying to change that,” she says. “I went to an all-girl high school, and I go back there to speak at the STEM Career Day. I also bring a rising senior in as an intern each year, and some of those former interns have gone on to tech careers. I’ve got a special place in my heart for these girls.”
She sees both the degree and the scholarship as a way to increase her credibility in this male-dominated field. “Unfortunately, I’ve experienced gender bias firsthand and on more than one occasion,” she shares. “My hope is that an advanced degree in information assurance and security with a specialization in digital forensics will add an additional layer of credibility to my qualifications and help me overcome this bias. I am working toward a promotion in the near future and, ultimately, I’ll seek an executive level position within the digital forensic and e-discovery services industry.”
Leeandra Wesley has worked in the technology field for many years and is currently a civilian for the U.S. Navy, focused on information assurance and security. She entered the field when it was relatively new, and she did not have a bachelor’s degree. “You didn’t need one at that time,” she explains. “Experience was considered commensurate with a degree.”
But things have changed in recent years. “We’ve had a shift in leadership in our organization,” she says. “The new director is very education-focused. To stay current, I needed to get that bachelor’s degree.” She wasn’t the only one in her household with that dilemma; her husband, who works with her, was in the same situation. That put quite a strain on the couple’s finances. “We were self-funding for the most part, but it was difficult,” she says.
When she read about the Dr. Mary Brown Memorial Scholarship, she realized she had all the required credentials, so she filled out the application. Learning she was one of the recipients was a wonderful moment. “It was such an amazing feeling—such a sigh of relief,” she says. “Now I don’t worry about having to pay for two of us to complete school.”
Her plan is to complete her bachelor’s in information technology with an information assurance and security specialization within 3 years, which is an ambitious schedule for someone with a full-time job and who also runs a horse farm. She says the scholarship is motivating her even more. In fact, her first week of school, she had to work 85 hours at her job. “I appreciate all the flexibility at Capella,” she says. “My fellow students are all working professionals. That makes a big difference, and I’ve been telling others about how flexible and approachable Capella is for people working full-time.”
Learn more about Capella’s information technology and information security programs.
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