U.S. Military’s Cyber Command’s (CYBERCOM)
U.S. Military’s Cyber Command’s (CYBERCOM)

LA PLATA, Md. – College of Southern Maryland (CSM) students studying cybersecurity will receive game-changing instruction and opportunities thanks to the college’s acceptance into the first cohort of the U.S. Military’s Cyber Command’s (CYBERCOM) new Academic Engagement Network (AEN). Through the network, CYBERCOM will collaborate directly with CSM to prepare students for the workforce, increase cyber-applied research and innovation, and expand cyber-focused analytic partnerships to enrich the nation’s strategic cyber dialogue.

“We are building a direct pipeline from the education sector to the workforce,” said CSM Chair of Technology Lakisha Ferebee. “Working directly with employers helps us make sure we are teaching the content we need to teach so that our graduates can transition directly to the workforce.”

CSM is one of 14 community colleges selected to participate in this national network. In total, partners consist of 70 universities, 14 community colleges, nine minority serving institutions, four military service academies, and four military war and staff colleges.

Being actively engaged with the AEN allows CSM to receive real-time information about changes in the cyberspace domain that may impact students, programs, research, and partnerships. CSM students will now also receive invitations to exclusive webinars about CYBERCOM’s most pressing problems, as well as how to benefit from key Department of Defense programs that impact cyberspace; and gain access to guest lecturers from CYBERCOM on cyberspace strategy, policy, law, innovation, and workforce issues.

“We are in prime location to take advantage of the growth in jobs in cybersecurity, which is a priority for national security,” said Ferebee. “We are ready to form a strong partnership with this program. The opportunities here are huge.”

“Cyber Command’s goal for the AEN is to strengthen our relationships and communication with these participating institutions,” said CYBERCOM’s Executive Director David Frederick. “This will improve and sustain our efforts to meet cyberspace educational requirements and workforce needs.”

Last month, U.S. Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency, and chief of the Central Security Service hosted a virtual welcome session for students, faculty and staff partners selected to participate in the inaugural CYBERCOM Academic Engagement Network event.

“I hope all of you view this initiative as common ground for a shared dialogue, not just CYBERCOM’s arena,” said Nakasone. “Ideally, it would be terrific if we could mature this network to the point where we move beyond solely dialogue and develop real solutions, real impacts to our shared challenges.”

CSM has a strong track record of preparing students for the cybersecurity workforce, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to grow 33 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Last year, cybersecurity faculty earned national recognition from the National Cyberwatch Center’s Innovations in Cybersecurity Education program. CSM’s faculty won Best Submission runner-up for adapting its “Cybersecurity Workforce: Bridging the Gap” courses during the pandemic to keep cybersecurity students who are supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) engaged. It also highlighted ways that CSM is measuring success in creating a social and learning community through this grant project.

“We are constantly trying to innovate and try new things while still giving students an education that makes them competitive in the workforce,” CSM Professor and Business Coordinator Dr. Mary Beth Klinger said then of the award. “Ultimately our end goal is to provide students with the joy of a cyber career.”

The Cybersecurity Program at CSM is designated as a CAE-CDE 2Y – National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense 2-Year Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Students in the program develop a foundation in computer theory, explore cybersecurity concepts, and select a specialized track to pursue in Digital Forensics, Network Security, or Information Assurance. For more information about Cybersecurity programs, visit CSM’s Cyber Center.

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