ITM Student Earns Award from Department of Defense’s Cyber Scholarship Program

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By Casey Moffitt

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Mark Littlefield (ITM/M.A.S. CYF Student) earned an award from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Scholarship Program, which will cover the costs of his tuition and books for the remainder of his studies at Illinois Institute of Technology, as well as spot him a student stipend.

“This scholarship really helps me focus on my schoolwork and projects as I do not need to worry so much about my financial situation,” Littlefield says. “It also helps shape my projects into something that will fit with my end goal, working for the DoD.”

As a stipulation of the scholarship, Littlefield will work for the DoD after graduation. By accepting the award, Littlefield commits to one year of employment with the DoD for each year of scholarship support.

“Growing up, my father was in the Army; as such, I became accustomed to that culture. This being said, working for the DoD did not give me any pause, and, in fact, I welcome it,” Littlefield says. “The thing I look forward to the most with working for the DoD is being able to put these skills I have learned over the past years to use. It may be cliché, but one of the biggest reasons I went into cybersecurity was to help people. By getting this amazing opportunity, I feel that I can more than accomplish my goal in that regard.”

Littlefield was eligible to apply for the scholarship because Illinois Tech has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. All students enrolled in a university with the designation are eligible to apply. The scholarship is administered by the NSA on behalf of the DoD in the form of a grant to the university.

The DoD uses the scholarship as a recruitment tool to attract information technology and cybersecurity talent to the department to ultimately enhance the nation’s cyber defense and capabilities.

“The process of applying itself was a lot like a job interview,” Littlefield says. “I had to write a competency statement and a list of achievements that make you stand out above others, submit a résumé, and have two letters of recommendation.” 

Littlefield says that he received plenty of help from Illinois Tech faculty to apply for the scholarship. He says that Ray Trygstad, associate chair of Illinois Tech’s Department of Information Technology and Management, alerted him to the scholarship opportunity. Maurice Dawson, assistant professor of information technology and management, reviewed Littlefield’s résumé and list of accomplishments, as well as submitted a letter of recommendation. Billy Pappademetriou, adjunct industry associate professor of information technology and management, put Littlefield in touch with an alumnus who works at the U.S. Department of State and helped with the application.

Photo: Illinois Tech student Mark Littlefield (ITM/M.A.S. CYF Student)