Two Fordham undergraduate students who graduated on Saturday will return to the University in the fall to pursue a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, thanks to a scholarship funded by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and administered by the National Security Agency.

The DoD Cyber Scholarships will cover the full tuition, health insurance, housing, and related expenses of the students, whose names are being withheld due to the sensitive nature of the work. In exchange, they will intern at DoD-affiliated organizations next summer and will work for a DoD organization such as the NSA for at least a year after graduating. (Update: In August 2020, the NSA allowed for the release of the students’ names. They are Patrick Mayrisch, GABELLI ‘ 20, and Peter Jennings, FCRH ’20.)

Thaier Hayajneh, Ph.D., professor of computer science,
Thaier Hayajneh. Photo by Chris Taggart

The funding for the scholarships represents one of two grants that were secured by University Professor Thaier Hayajneh, Ph.D., founding director of Fordham’s Center for Cybersecurity.

As a result of a successful application to the program, Fordham can now administer the grant to students, who are chosen by the DoD.

The other grant, which the center has secured twice previously, covers capacity building efforts for the University’s cybersecurity program that can be shared with other CAE-CDE partners.

Hayajneh said the scholarships, which are available to undergraduate and graduate students interested in cybersecurity, are a validation of both the students’ outstanding credentials and Fordham’s growing leadership in the field.

“It’s a great recognition for our undergraduate programs, because they’ve selected students who are getting undergraduate degrees at Fordham, one of them in computer sciences at Fordham College at Rose Hill, and the other in information systems at the Gabelli School of Business,” said Hayajneh.

The scholarships can be used for one or two years, so in the future, undergraduates in their junior year can apply for it as well and use it for their senior year of undergraduate studies and one year of a master’s program. The two students who received it this year will complete nine classes during the 2020-2021 academic year and earn their final credits with a practicum at their internship.

The master’s in cybersecurity has been offered since 2016, and is one of three degrees the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers with an emphasis on cybersecurity. There is also a minor offered to undergraduates.

Since 2009, Fordham has also partnered every 18 months with the FBI to organize and host the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS), a four-day long conference that is regularly attended by the directors of the FBI and the NSA. The NSA designated the University a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) in 2017.

In keeping with his goal of expanding recruitment of students to fields besides computer science, Hayajneh said that he reached out to all students either minoring or majoring the STEM field.

“The field of cyber has changed a lot. They don’t have to be programmers, they could be anything related to cybersecurity,” he said.

“These two students have really high GPAs, excellent credentials, and have been involved in internships in the past, and that’s why they were selected. Now that we’ve got these first grants, I’m optimistic that next year we’ll get five or even more.”






Patrick Verel is a news producer for Fordham Now. He can be reached at [email protected] or (212) 636-7790.