NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) and Women's Cyber Security Symposium

CSAW Pre-event

"Professional and creative, extraordinary quality of work, amazing team player ... that's Elisabeth. She delivers on time, within budget, always exceeds expectations, and is a pleasure to work with."

—Geri Del Priore, Project Manager

A little serendipity

One day in the spring of 2014, I got a surprise email from Geri Del Priore ». She said a colleague of mine had told her to talk to me because she needed immediate turnaround on a direct mail piece. She introduced herself: she was the project manager of CSAW, a national cyber security conference out of NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

What’s CSAW?

Cyber Security Awareness Week consists of six student-organized competitions, a rolling selection of workshops, a career fair, and keynote talks from industry leaders. Each event plays a role within the field — from recruiting talented high school students with no prior knowledge of security, to promoting field-leading doctoral research. That said, CSAW is more than an event. For NYU, it’s also a business asset that builds prestige and drives recruitment.

A team is born

Geri told me all this during our first phone call. Then she introduced me to freelance designer Amanda Morante Wolin ». I delivered on the direct mail messaging, and for the next three years, we became the CSAW marketing team.

A new voice for CSAW

Going into 2014, CSAW had been around for ten years. We needed to tell that story. We also needed to define the conference’s voice: no longer in its infancy, it was time to mature the brand. I developed the voice of CSAW to be clear, confident and crucial.

Eleventh Annual Messaging

Get ready for CSAW

In 2003, it was a small, local competition. Today it’s the largest student-run security event in the nation: a weekend of competitions, industry talks, workshops and career fair, preparing best-performing students with the skills and knowledge to shape the future of the industry.

Sponsorship Messaging

Welcome to CSAW

Sponsors like you help bring together some of the best minds in cyber security, while guiding top students into leadership roles in this increasingly complex field. As a premier student competition and industry conference, CSAW makes a lasting difference in the future of cyber security—and your support makes it possible.

Elevating the brand

At the time, the CSAW website was student-built, visually inconsistent, and confusing to navigate. We left it largely unchanged that year, but in 2015, we pushed for a revamp.

Working with NYU adjunct Marc Budofsky as our system administrator, we reinvented the conference’s online presence. Marc facilitated the back end. Amanda designed its graphical elements. My role was to:

  • Develop web content strategy
  • Draft information architecture
  • Design page layout
  • Generate sitewide web copy
  • Manage web content

Meanwhile, our team collaborated on bringing the look and feel of the conference itself up to the same bar, from tablecloths to swag to on-site slide presentations.



Direct Mail Campaign

CSAW general mailing

Conference Guide (40 pages)

CSAW Brochure thumbnail

The Women's Symposium

About a year into our partnership, I got another call from Geri. There was a new conference in the works: NYU Tandon wanted to improve the pipeline for women into cyber security.

We had three audiences:

  • Mid-career professionals wanting to switch tracks
  • College graduates just entering the workforce
  • High school students considering career paths

Together we developed a website, identity, marketing strategy, and materials to get the new brand off the ground.

CSAW industry talks

Conference Guide (20 pages)

Symposium Brochure thumbnail

Direct Mail Campaign

Symposium Postcard, Email

Six different audiences

Meanwhile in CSAW, we faced a challenge: our marketing strategy had to focus individually on each of the conference’s six national audiences while holding the big picture intact. When Geri stepped back at the end of 2016, I took the lead on marketing direction:

  • Strategize messaging, milestones and touch points for each audience
  • Coordinate development, production and distribution of print and digital collateral
  • Work with project manager, graphic designer, print house, web systems administrator, PR director, panel guests and university faculty

1. High School Forensics (HSF)

High School Forensics mailing
CSAW'15 HSF Poster
CSAW'16 HSF Poster
HSF Parent Letter

2. Capture the Flag (CTF)


Every year, CTF is the competition to draw the biggest CSAW turnout. Students face a series of real-world situations modeling all types of computer security problems; to solve these, they must demonstrate a profound understanding of the role and ramifications of security in these scenarios.

Because the challenges are designed to teach, students learn as they go, integrating concepts and developing practical skills while competing for cash prizes.

CTF is judged by some of the most technical experts in the industry, providing a formidable training ground for a new generation of cyber security leaders, and a proving ground for its veterans. For the final round, undergraduate finalists will compete on-site before an array of industry-leading sponsors who are looking to hire people with the right skills.

3. Applied Research


At the Research Competition, students are invited to submit their work to win the CSAW Applied Security Best Paper Award. Eligible submissions include any paper accepted by an academic conference or journal between September 1, 2012 and August 31, 2013, on any topic related to the application of security technology, the implementation of security systems, or lessons learned.

Because submissions are limited to previously accepted papers, this competition has a reputation for drawing the upper echelons of doctoral security research from around the world. Finalists will be evaluated for originality, relevance and accuracy by judges from academia, government and the cyber security industry.

4. Embedded Security

Embedded Security Challenge mailing

5. Policy Competition

Policy mailing

6. DHS Quiz


The CSAW Security Quiz is a little like trivia… but a lot more intense.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it forges through a variety of cyber security topics, from current events to the highly technical. Contestants are challenged on their knowledge of cryptography, malware, network security, protocols and policy. They answer questions on application and web security, digital forensics and risk management. They test their grasp of industry standards and the history of digital security.

All CSAW finalists (including graduate, undergraduate and high school students) are eligible to compete in this academically rigorous, intensely fun competition, which will be held on-site during the conference at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

On-site marketing & support

We collaborated remotely for most of the year, but not at conference time. Twice each fall, NYU flew me to Brooklyn to live-tweet the two conferences and provide on-site support. It was a beautiful opportunity for our tight-knit, long-distance team to work shoulder-to-shoulder.

"Fabulous, wonderful, amazing team. I brag about your work, how you function as a team, the quality."

—Geri Del Priore, Project Manager

Social Marketing

Live tweets

Project takeaways

For three years, our team managed every aspect of marketing and brand strategy for both CSAW and Symposium: building an identity to support student organizers, drive NYU enrollment, promote the importance of the industry, and encourage bright minds to find their way into the field. It took creativity, strategic thinking, interpersonal finesse, and a lot of initiative — and it was a challenge I was very glad to accept.

Keep exploring