Cybersecurity Education Leader Inspiring Others by Fulfilling Educational Goals

Sandra Leiterman from 2023 Tv commercial production shoot in the EAC Cave. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

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In the dynamic realm of cybersecurity, where resilience is key, the newly minted Dr. Sandra Leiterman not only safeguards digital landscapes but also blazes a trail of inspiration.

While balancing a full-time career as managing director of the Cyber Arena at UA Little Rock, a myriad of research and teaching responsibilities, and an unwavering commitment to education, Leiterman recently achieved a remarkable milestone—earning her doctoral degree.

In 2020, Leiterman was already working on a doctorate in STEM when she made a bold decision to switch Ph.D. programs to the Urban Education program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she specialized in math education. In the same year, she also switched roles to work in cybersecurity education at UA Little Rock.

“Life is full of twists and turns,” Leiterman said. “Sometimes, it’s the detours that take you to the most fascinating places you never knew existed. Through it all, I embraced the spirit of the panther – moving with strength, confidence, and adaptability through unpredictable terrain. And I’m thankful for the support of family, friends, and colleagues along the way. I am thrilled to begin the new year as Dr. Sandra Leiterman!”

Throughout the past three years, Leiterman has been balancing a full-time career, which includes working on several high-level cybersecurity grants and projects at UA Little Rock, with doctoral classes and research, family, and STEM education volunteering.

“You have to have a certain level of insanity, which I possess, to do this, but it just comes down to time management,” Leiterman said. “There are times I would spend all day in meetings and then still have classes and homework. The biggest key to my success is having a schedule to follow and time management. It was more work than I anticipated, but it’s a huge relief to be done.”

In her dissertation, “Success in College Algebra: Examining Student Experiences in Corequisite College Algebra Courses,” Leiterman researched undergraduate student experiences and perceptions in college algebra courses, particularly focusing on math anxiety and mindset at the beginning and end of the semester.

“The official question is how students’ interests, attitudes, and beliefs affect their enrollment in prerequisite college algebra,” Leiterman said. “Student backgrounds play a role. Their K-12 experiences play a role in how they deal with college math.”

Her findings suggest student-centered instruction and integrated support in the corequisite college algebra model can help foster more positive student experiences. However, effectiveness depends greatly on implementation, indicating a need for faculty development and standardized corequisite design focused on promoting engaging and collaborative learning environments to support student mastery.

Leiterman also holds a bachelor’s degree in middle school math and science education and a graduate certificate in gifted and talented education from UA Little Rock, as well as a master’s degree in digital and teaching learning from Kansas State.

The cybersecurity education leader hasn’t even finished her educational goals. She also joined UA Little Rock’s National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy two years ago. At the end of the summer, she will earn her graduate certificate in cybersecurity education.

“I think that will be the end of my formal education, at least for now, but we are never fully done learning,” she said.

Her journey is more than an academic triumph; it’s a testament to the indomitable spirit that defines true leaders in the rapidly evolving world of cybersecurity.

“It’s never too late to pick and choose your priorities,” Leiterman said. “That is my message. I’m 48 and just earned my doctorate. I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree until I was 35. I did things backwards, but it’s been a very rewarding career, and you can always teach an old dog new tricks.”

On Key

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