Earning a $5,000 scholarship is reason enough to celebrate, but on top of that, Nina Pandya earned the distinction of becoming the first University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu Cybersecurity student to receive the new award.
Pandya, 21, of Honolulu, is the recipient of the One in Tech National Cyber League (NCL) Games Scholarship — a partnership between NCL and One in Tech, a foundation of ISACA, previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association. The partnership offers scholarships to support and promote diversity within the cybersecurity industry.
“Our cyber faculty are incredibly excited for Nina earning this scholarship,” said Dr. Matthew Chapman, professor of Computer Science and Cybersecurity at UH West O‘ahu. “She is the first student in our program, and perhaps the first in the state of Hawai‘i to earn this scholarship.”
Pandya said the scholarship is significant because it will allow her to finish her degree at UH West O‘ahu while helping to minimize financial costs.
“Not only has it helped me to achieve my academic goals, but it also gave me a boost of confidence and motivation to keep persevering through any challenges that I face,” she said. “I am very grateful to have received this scholarship and thankful for everyone who has been part of my journey as I enter my senior year of college.”
Chapman described Pandya, his student, as one of the program’s top cyber team competitors.
“This scholarship is particularly exciting, as it is directly linked to performance in the National Cyber League (NCL) competition,” Chapman said. “This is really groundbreaking for cyber student scholarship opportunities, and we are quite proud of Nina for earning this honor and scholarship money.”
The NCL is a biannual cybersecurity competition. According to the NCL website, a growing population — more than 13,000 students of all ages, representing over 650 colleges and high schools across the U.S. — participates each year.
The scholarship is for NCL games participants attending an accredited university in the United States who plan to pursue a degree in cybersecurity or information assurance. Applicants must participate in the NCL games and complete at least 25% of the individual or team games.
Pandya was one of five NCL players to be awarded the scholarship. In a new round of scholarships — applications will be accepted Sept. 26 through Oct. 24 — 10 NCL players will each receive the $5,000 award.
Pandya applied for the scholarship last semester after learning about it from Chapman. Initially, she thought she didn’t receive the scholarship because she hadn’t heard back from anyone, she recalled.
“However, over the summer, I received an email that I had received a scholarship from this organization,” Pandya said. “I didn’t know what it entailed at first, but after researching the scholarship, it started to sink in that I was a recipient of a huge scholarship.”
In addition to the monetary award, Pandya will also receive a “career-building bundle,” which includes free one-year ISACA student membership, free one-year ISACA chapter student membership, free virtual registration for one ISACA conference, one free ISACA course, and participation as a mentee in ISACA’s mentorship program.
“There are so many people in the United States studying cybersecurity, and to receive this scholarship made me feel really grateful to be a part of the Cybersecurity program at UH West O‘ahu and to have such talented teachers and professors throughout my journey,” Pandya said.