6 Community Colleges Named CAE

First 2-Year Schools to be Designated Centers of Excellence
6 Community Colleges Named CAE
Six two-year schools are the first community colleges to be named National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The six institutions are:

  • Anne Arundel Community College, MD;
  • Hagerstown Community College , MD;
  • Prince Georges Community College, MD;
  • Oklahoma City Community College, OK;
  • Rose State College, OK;
  • Moraine Valley Community College, IL;

The NSA established the National Centers program more than a decade ago, in 1998, in response to a presidential directive focused on critical infrastructure protection. In 2003, the DHS joined NSA in sponsoring the program.

According to Richard "Dickie" George, Information Assurance Technical Director with the NSA, the core mission of the program is to produce students that are focused and educated in information assurance to become cybersecurity experts -- and be better prepared to address the cybersecurity challenges faced today, including cyber attacks and identity theft. "We are looking to produce students who are aware and are well equipped to address these threats effectively," George says.

From seven centers of academic excellence (CAE) in 1998, the program today identifies approximately106 universities that are accredited as CAE.

To further address the demand in cybersecurity workforce the NSA -CAE program has expanded to include two-year colleges.

"These institutions are great avenues to develop basic hands-on skills, a career transition into emerging technologies like forensics, digital crime and training for ongoing career enhancement," says Gerhard L. Salinger, program director for The Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program at the National Science Foundation. Each of the six two-year schools has bolstered its information assurance and cybersecurity programs in part with support from the National Science Foundation's ATE program, which focuses on the education of technicians for the jobs that drive our nation's economy, and places a special emphasis on two-year colleges.

To be designated and selected as a CAE, these institutions needed to demonstrate the ability to provide innovative, comprehensive and multidisciplinary education and training in the fields of information assurance and cybersecurity. Six key prerequisites were required to be met by these colleges:

  • Outreach/collaboration - evidence of work and curricula development in Information Assurance (IA) education with other community colleges, teaching in high schools and technical schools;
  • IA treated as a multidisciplinary science - demonstration of their academic program as a multidisciplinary science reaching other departments like criminal justice, medical services;
  • College encourages the practice of IA - their academic program must demonstrate how the university encourages the practice of IA, not merely that IA is taught. Schools need to provide evidence of the implementation of the college departmental IA security plan to encourage IA awareness throughout the campus;
  • Faculty development - the school must demonstrate that their faculty is experienced and active in current IA practice and research;
  • Student development - demonstrate that their internal academic program and curricula are robust and active. Additionally, the college has avenues for student development in terms of internships, competitions, degree programs;
  • Partnerships - evidence of collaboration within IA education with other community colleges, industry associations and technical schools.

"The NSA CAE seal is a new opportunity for community colleges to gain national recognition, trust and quality in the education provided," says Erich Spengler professor at Moraine Valley Community College. "We are looking to define new career paths, help build capacity and a stronger IT security workforce in the future."

According to Victor Piotrowski, program director at the Division of Undergraduate Education with the National Science Foundation, "This is more of a mentorship initiative." These six schools will further receive funds of $50,000 dollars each by the NSA and DHS to mentor and help develop cybersecurity curricula in another group of colleges. "So we are looking to spread education and get a great number of schools to participate in this program."

Like the four-year CAE program, this designation will help students get scholarship opportunities in the future to advance education much like the service for scholarship program, says Piotrowski. "The goal is to add people with more advanced degrees into the workforce and support cybersecurity and information assurance education beginning at the high school level."

About the Author

Upasana Gupta

Upasana Gupta

Contributing Editor, CareersInfoSecurity

Upasana Gupta oversees CareersInfoSecurity and shepherds career and leadership coverage for all Information Security Media Group's media properties. She regularly writes on career topics and speaks to senior executives on a wide-range of subjects, including security leadership, privacy, risk management, application security and fraud. She also helps produce podcasts and is instrumental in the global expansion of ISMG websites by recruiting international information security and risk experts to contribute content, including blogs. Upasana previously served as a resource manager focusing on hiring, recruiting and human resources at Icons Inc., an IT security advisory firm affiliated with ISMG. She holds an MBA in human resources from Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa.

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