By: Amber C. Williamson

In 1984, NBC premiered “The Cosby Show”, an African American family of a doctor and lawyer and their five children. Both parents and one of the grandparents attended a fictitious Historically Black College and University (HBCU). As the TV seasons continued, one of the children followed in the parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps by attending the fictitious HBCU. As a sequence to “The Cosby Show”, in 1987, NBC premiered the famous television sitcom, “A Different World,” which painted a foreshadowing precursor of what my future would reveal. “A Different World” illustrates African American students attending an HBCU majoring in various fields. One of the most relatable characters is Dwayne Wayne. Dwayne Wayne is an engineering major with a math minor and is fascinated by Computer Science. As the character evolved, he eventually applied and attended the PhD program for Computer Science.

Source: IMDB

It is long overdue to give the characters from “A Different World” their flowers today. The cast of “A Different World” is on an HBCU tour to discuss A Different TV show and how it has impacted African Americans and HBCUs. While I wish the TV show was back to bring a modern-day perspective, the old shows still leave a lasting footprint in my DNA. As a proud product of Xavier University of Louisiana, I navigated various trials and tribulations to finish my first degree. As I approach 20 years from graduating from my alma mater, the one thing that I do not regret is meeting people in the Computer Science Department, taking a couple of courses, and obtaining a job in the Computer Lab. Since graduation, I have obtained several degrees, worked in various industries, and finally reached a milestone, soon to complete my doctoral degree in Cybersecurity from Marymount University. Because of the TV sitcom, I made the best decision regarding my education and career. Because of my preschool exposure to computers and electronic devices, I received formal computer education throughout elementary, junior high, high school, and now college. I did not run from the computer, but the computer came to me.

However, there are some questions I am yet trying to fulfill and understand:
What is a Different World?
Is it a world where you come from?
How does Dwayne Wayne relate to my reality as a Cybersecurity Doctoral Student and a Full Time High School Cybersecurity Teacher?

I am a Jack of All Trade and a Master of None. I fully submerse myself into Computer Science, Information Technology, and Cybersecurity concepts to become the best educator I can be for my students. It has been very challenging throughout the four years of teaching and four years as a doctoral student. What does being the only person teaching a specialized subject and a doctoral student mean? While being a student, I had to obtain Cybersecurity Certifications, Computer Science Certification, Workforce Education credentials, Master of Computer Science Education, and a Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity Education while completing a dissertation and fulfilling my obligations to CSTA and other organizations. The life of a doctoral student consists of writing white papers, conference proposals, and conference presentations for various conferences like the CSTA Annual Conference, NICE K12 Cybersecurity Education, and future presentations. I perform extra tasks at work and serve as a Data Ambassador for my school district to help me understand data for my research. Being in a doctoral program means prioritizing self-care and sleeping much more often. There are many more things about being a doctoral student, but you must understand my purpose and why.

Why am I doing all of these things to obtain my doctoral degree? My research focuses on secondary education and Historically Black Colleges and Universities with Cybersecurity programs. The study will ask Computer Science High School students about their views on Cybersecurity and how it connects with Computer Science. While there is a talent shortage of minorities in the field, I wanted to be the next Dwayne Wayne and reach students at their full potential. I know how it feels to want a chance to make a difference in the computing field. Every day is a new adventure in the eyes of Cybersecurity and Computer Science. As an ongoing doctoral student, I see the issues we face regarding equity and inclusion in the Computer Science and Cybersecurity curriculum, instruction, and resources. From the long nights grading assignments to writing extensively in course work to dissertation chapters, I know that “A Different World is Where You Come From.”

And that is the Day and Life of a Cybersecurity Doctoral Student!

image 2
Source: CNN

About the Author

20190420 144718 Headshot Copy

Amber C. Williamson is a passionate cybersecurity doctoral candidate and educator in Atlanta, Georgia. She advocates for exposure to minorities in cybersecurity and computer science education through secondary education and historically black colleges and universities. Amber is a valuable resource to the community that provides insight into cybersecurity resiliency.

Regardless of the numerous degrees in cybersecurity and computer science education, Amber understands the intricacies of cybersecurity education and will continue to disrupt the workforce.