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Scholarships Support Diversity and Inclusion in Information Technology at 2019 Internet2 Global Summit

Posted on Feb 26, 2019 by Sara Aly
Tags: 2019 Internet2 Global Summit, Frontpage News, Higher Education, Inclusivity Initiative Award, Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative, Internet2 Member, Recent Posts, Regional Networks, Research & Education Networks, Trust & Identity

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 26, 2019 - Internet2 announced today seven recipients of scholarships aimed at increasing the meaningful participation of underrepresented information technology professionals, from both the national and global research and education communities, ahead of its annual meeting, the Internet2 Global Summit event, taking place in Washington, D.C. from March 5-8. 

The scholarship recipients are:

  • Rachael Collard, publicity and marketing coordinator, Connecticut Education Network
  • Kaitlin Helfter, emerging IT professional in ITaP Research Computing, Purdue University
  • Rajan Parajuli, director, Nepal Research and Education Network
  • Erin Plese, information security analyst intermediate, Northern Arizona University
  • Katelyn Russell, systems administrator II, University of Texas at Austin
  • Khamphanh Sithavong, deputy director of information technology center, National University of Laos
  • Nuyun Zhang, research scientist, Georgia Institute of Technology

Collard, Helfter, Parajuli, Plese, Russell, Sithavong, and Zhang will be recognized during the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative session at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, March 6. The two scholarships being presented are the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative Award and the Network Startup Resource Center-Internet2 Fellowship. 

Scholarships cover travel expenses, hotel accommodation, and conference registration for the 2019 Internet2 Global Summit. Funding for the scholarships is made possible by Duo, Internet2, Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), and Palo Alto Networks. Northern Arizona University, Purdue University, and Georgia Institute of Technology are providing financial travel support for their respective scholarship winner. 

"There is a collective sense of responsibility for recruiting, training, and retaining a diverse and inclusive IT workforce across the broad research and higher education community," said Ana Hunsinger, vice president of community engagement at Internet2. "The scholarships are one effort among many by our community to ensure the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in timely discussions around applied innovation and best-practices in their profession. I'm proud to share that over the past few years, these scholarships have supported more than forty women and underrepresented minorities from the U.S., Colombia, Laos, Nepal, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, and Zambia."

"We look forward to seeing the leaders of the Nepali NREN and the Laotian Research and Education Network at the Internet2 Global Summit for the first time, representing their communities," said Steven Huter, director of the NSRC. "The Nepali NREN is actively expanding their national footprint and connecting more new locations, while also seeking deeper collaborations between Nepali institutions and U.S. universities. Likewise, LERNET seeks to enhance its services and applications for Laotian universities, and I hope an enriching experience at the Global Summit will establish new working relationships that Rajan and Khamphanh can take back home with them."

A full list of the scholarship winners, along with their bios, appears below:

Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative Award recipients:


Rachael Collard is a publicity and marketing professional for Connecticut Education Network (CEN). She has played an integral role in CEN's recent initiatives including member engagement in the development of CEN goals, communication of CEN's unique offering and success stories to its current and future members, and broadening the scope and range of member training and networking events. Her current goal is to bridge the communication gap between network engineers and non-technical member end users. Her responsibilities include planning, organizing, and delivering CEN's annual member conference, leading the effort to re-design and launch an improved marketing presence, leading and participating with multiple member focus groups and advisory councils in the development of CEN strategies and plans for member training and education, new network services and business growth, and working with the member relations and technical teams to develop consistent community communications to CEN members. Rachael brings nearly fifteen years of private sector sales and marketing experience to CEN, most recently with Superwinch in Dayville, CT. She has a track record of success helping organizations grow through improved communications, service, and outreach.


Kaitlin Helfter is currently working for the research computing division of IT at Purdue University as a member of the Emerging IT Professional Program. In this role she develops and extends their web operations platform and consults with faculty and researchers. She also helps maintain the research HPC clusters which are used by the faculty and researchers across campus. Over the course of three years in her program, she will gain experience in multiple areas of technology including high performance computing and information security. Kaitlin earned her bachelor's degree in computer science from Clemson University in 2018 and is currently looking into graduate degree programs in cyber security, system administration, and computer graphics.


Erin Plese is an information security analyst, intermediate at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. After fourteen years of experience in student administration, she became a member of the information security services team and now focuses on maintaining the university's compliance with state and federal regulations as they relate to university systems, services, and research data protections. She is responsible for consulting, advising, and providing hands-on assistance necessary to ensure the security and compliance of information system assets; providing information security research and knowledge in risk management and regulatory compliance; training on technical security topics to fellow campus community members; and promoting awareness of information security best practices. She holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice, a bachelor of arts degree in sociology, and a master of arts degree in applied sociology.


Katelyn (Kate) Russell is an up-and-coming systems administrator and project manager with the University of Texas. Her role is currently with the enterprise infrastructure team where she manages storage and virtual infrastructure. She has been with the university for 5 years. During this time, she's built significant relationships with the campus faculty, staff, and other technical departments supporting email services, IT communication, and now as an administrator advising on infrastructure best practices. After working on several projects in a support capacity, she developed a deep interest in leading projects. She uses her broad technical background to interface with a multitude of technical personnel while in a project management role. Most recently she has worked as a project manager for successfully launching a container environment as a new service for the campus. She's enthusiastic about expanding into project management, exploring leadership in IT, and a broader range of technologies than sheÕs previously had the privilege of working. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in english from Texas State University while working as part of the campus IT community.


Nuyun Zhang is a research scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a team lead for the software and collaboration support team with the Partnership for an Advanced Computing Environment (PACE), which serves Georgia Tech faculty and researchers with a sustainable, leading-edge high-performance computing environment. She has worked on several NSF funded cloud-based research computing projects, including improving Science DMZ via virtualization of intrusion detection systems, and cybersecurity education during her time at Clemson University. In addition to supporting research cyberinfrastructure, she is interested in education for all. She has served as a member of the school improvement council for South Carolina public schools and has contributed to several projects aimed at improving education for all. She also initiated a Women-In-IT effort at Georgia Tech with other women leaders in 2018. She holds a doctoral degree in computer science from Peking University, is a past recipients of an IBM PhD Fellowship Award, and was a national winner of the Mathematical Contest in Modeling in China.

Network Startup Resource Center-Internet2 Fellowship recipients:


Rajan Parajuli is currently the director of Nepal Research and Education Network (NREN), an organization with whom he has been associated since 2009.  His extensive work at NREN over a decade resulted in developing a keen sense of appreciation for research and academic pursuits that serve the local community. He is spearheading a national campaign to provide research & education network connectivity to universities, colleges, research organizations, teaching hospitals, and much more across Nepal. He also works with the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) team at the University of Oregon as a development partner to help strengthen the network infrastructure and technical capacity of Nepali human resources for the advancement of the NREN community in Nepal. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. His research interests are gender, technology and healthcare delivery. Specifically, his research sheds light on the impact of delivering rural telemedicine services on traditional gender roles and norms in developing countries.


Khamphanh Sithavong is a network engineer, system administrator, and IT manager with the IT Center for the National University of Laos. He has been actively involved in many projects including establishing the network backbone of the university, designing campus networks for universities in Laos, network security and the Internet. In recent years, he has been helping establish the Lao Education and Research Network (LERNET) under the leadership of the IT Center at the National University of Laos with help from the Network Startup Resource Center. This partnership is helping Laos build research infrastructure, strengthen the educational community, and train local network engineering personnel. He holds degrees in education from Pyatigorsk Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages, Former USSR; network engineering from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia; and information technology and knowledge management from Queensland University of Technology, Australia. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Photos of the scholarship recipients' recognition during the 2019 Internet2 Global Summit will be made available on Wednesday, March 6 after 1:30 p.m. Contact Sara Aly at

About Internet2
Internet2® is a non-profit, member-driven advanced technology community founded by the nation's leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 serves 316 U.S. universities, 60 government agencies, 43 regional and state education networks and through them supports more than 100,000 community anchor institutions, close to 1,000 InCommon participants, and 60 leading corporations working with our community, and 70 national research and education network partners that represent more than 100 countries.

Internet2 delivers a diverse portfolio of technology solutions that leverages, integrates, and amplifies the strengths of its members and helps support their educational, research and community service missions. Internet2's core infrastructure components include the nation's largest and fastest research and education network that was built to deliver advanced, customized services that are accessed and secured by the community-developed trust and identity framework.

Internet2 offices are located in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Denver, Colo.; Washington, D.C.; and West Hartford, Conn. For more information, visit or follow @Internet2 on Twitter.

About The Network Startup Resource Center (
The Network Startup Resource Center, which is based at the University of Oregon, was established in 1992 to provide technical assistance to organizations setting up computer networks in new areas to connect scientists engaged in collaborative research and education. For the past 25 years, the NSRC has helped develop Internet infrastructure and network operations communities in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean, and the Middle East. The NSRC is partially funded by the International Research Network Connections (IRNC) program of the U.S. National Science Foundation and Google, with additional contributions from dozens of public and private organizations.

Since 2000, the Network Startup Resource Center and Internet2 have worked with universities, network service providers, and industry and government agencies in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean to provide support to research and education communities in countries underserved by the current research and education networking infrastructure. For more information, visit

Media Contact: Sara Aly
Communications Manager, Internet2