SUNY Adirondack Admits First Black Woman into its Cybersecurity Program

by Xara Aziz
Credit: Post Star
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SUNY Adirondack has made history after admitting the first Black woman to be a part of its cybersecurity program.

Keonna Barnes will graduate with an associate degree later this year, making her the first to be admitted and the first to graduate from the program.

Barnes was just a child when she knew she would pursue a career working in tech.

“I always liked setting up computers,” Barnes told Government Technology, an online publication covering information technology’s role in state and local governments. “I really like coding.”

The Bronx native said that she would never leave home growing up because she was an introvert. So she would spend her time at home working on computers and found that she had fallen in love with them.

But it wasn’t until she was watching the news with her mother that she recognized working with computers would be her calling.

“The reporter spoke on a variety of cases of companies getting hacked,” Barnes said. “As I was watching, a thought occurred [to me] ‘there’s a lot of news about hackers attacking companies, but you never hear any stories of who stopped or resolved it.’ So I figured there must not be enough people.”

Fast forward years later, she had many options but chose to attend SUNY Adirondack, although she said it didn’t come easy. Moving to another part of New York and facing issues with comprehension made it difficult for her to adjust to college life.

“You know the phrase, ‘in one ear and out the other,’ it’s really like that,” she explained. “Sometimes [information] just doesn’t register.”

She thanks SUNY Adirondack Accessibility Services, which she says gave her the fortitude to push forward through the arduous times.  

“The Accessibility’s Office has provided me with services, such as recorded lectures, and extended time on tests in a separate location,” she explained. “[It] has been a great experience for me. … They have been so supportive in my academic career and studies.”

According to the National Science Foundation, Hispanic, Black and American Indian or Alaska Native workers make up less than one-quarter of people working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries in America. The Aspin Institute further states that Black people make up less than 10 percent of the STEM workforce.

Even with the odds against her, Barnes says she is destined to succeed.

“(Don’t) be afraid of your disability,” she said. “This is your life. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. So, if you’re thinking of going to college, seek out the accessibility services. … My ASO office has helped me in more ways than they know. Cybersecurity at SUNY Adirondack was the best choice I’ve ever made.”

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