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Changing Lives 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 23, 2017) – From a young age, Elisabeth Dubois was told about the gravity of the extreme poverty in Cambodia, including stories about children growing up in a garbage dump.

Elisabeth, a Vermont native and a senior in the Digital Forensics Program at the School of Business, was profoundly changed. After graduation, she plans to get a Ph.D. in Information Security, and combine her passion for digital forensics with her goal to “change lives.”

In 2004, her grandmother, Judy Wheeler, founded The Global Child, a non-profit school that gives bright, enthusiastic children, who otherwise would be working on the streets, the opportunity to pursue an education and a bright future. The school, based in Siem Reap, Cambodia, opened with 11 children and now has 41 from ages 7 to 21. The children often stay until they graduate, as the school provides safe housing and a quality education.

Elisabeth became pen pals with a few of the children over the years, and continues to maintain friendships with many of them, even after they have graduated from the school. Sometimes, there is heartache, as when one of the students had to leave the school because he felt an obligation to be with his family after his mother was diagnosed with AIDS.

As part of her undergraduate research, Elisabeth works with Professor of Information Security and Digital Forensics Sanjay Goel in his Cyber Innovation Lab, where novel cyber defense tools are developed and tested. She is helping build and test the infrastructure for the lab.

Elisabeth began working on a digital lab business proposal for The Global Child. The plan, while purely a part of her volunteer work, was created based on what she had learned in the classroom as well as through her research.

She and Daniel Tompkins, a recent Union College graduate and Minerva Fellow at The Global Child, invested time into improving the proposal and took action to make the digital lab a reality.

They have proposed that the students in Cambodia receive an in-depth curriculum in computers, internet security and digital art like Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as digital photography and videography.

“Elisabeth is a bright and enthusiastic student who takes initiative and is eager to learn,” said Goel. “She is driven to succeed and wants to make a difference in the world. She is very focused, polite, respectful and helpful in addition to having a great deal of integrity. I believe she has the potential to do amazing things in her life and career.”

Although Elisabeth never traveled to Cambodia, she has remained in constant contact with the students and staff via Skype and Facebook. Her conversations with the students and work with The Global Child have led Elisabeth to view life through a new lens.

“It gave me a different outlook on life,” she said. “Before that, I took our comforts for granted. Those children would give anything to have the chance to receive an education and bare necessities, while I saw such things as trivial.”

The school allows students access to a computer lab that will help them compete in the job market, but the current computers are outdated. The present computers face constant equipment problems caused by the hot and humid temperatures. Elisabeth’s goal is to raise enough money for 15 new computers, so a computer technology curriculum can be introduced at The Global Child. So far, enough funding for two computers and the necessary hardware and software has been raised.

In her three years at UAlbany (she skipped sophomore year), Elisabeth says she has grown a great deal. For example, there was a time when she would never have considered going to a professor’s office hours to ask questions. Now she goes out of her way to meet her professors.

“I would highly recommend UAlbany for the opportunities you have academically and socially. You have the opportunity to take classes with highly qualified industry professionals, conduct cutting-edge research with faculty who are leaders in their field, network with esteemed alumni, and are able to engage in a diverse university community,” she said.

Meeting Hany Farid, M.S. ’92, deemed the ‘father of digital forensics,’ was inspiring to her. He delivered the Massry Lecture on campus last month, and hearing him discuss his research and experience illuminated new corners of the field for Elisabeth.

“Farid’s work to combat the spread of extremist propaganda and child pornography in collaboration with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as other organizations, is inspiring,” she said. “Like him, I feel like the University at Albany provided me the toolset necessary to excel in my future and go about research with a sense of curiosity.”

Attending the Security, Technology & Society Summer Workshop at Dartmouth College during the summer of 2014 influenced Elisabeth’s decision to join the Digital Forensics Program. The information security knowledge she gained during that workshop made her want to learn more about the field and become an active student in the School of Business.

Her advice as a senior, to freshmen: “Get to know your professors. They can provide so many amazing opportunities and are here for your benefit. Attending office hours allows professors to put a face to the name and it shows you are willing to go the extra mile.”

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