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Degree Spotlight: University on Cyber’s Cutting Edge

Degree Spotlight: University on Cyber’s Cutting Edge

By Dan Silvia

From your personal cellphone all the way up to the servers at the highest level of government, the importance of cybersecurity seems to be part of the news cycle on a daily basis. Keeping those servers safe has become an in-demand skill set.

Where to get those skills? Bellevue University, of course.

The University first introduced its Cybersecurity programs in 2011 after being encouraged to do so by its Military Advisory Board. Offering both a Graduate and Undergraduate degree, the program has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since 2012.

The Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity boasted 180 enrolled students as of March 2017, while the Master of Science in Cybersecurity had 182 enrolled students.

“President Mary Hawkins and the Military Advisory Board saw the future of cyber technologies and were proactive in funding, supporting, and creating the program,” said Professor Ron Woerner, who served as the program’s first director and still works as an adjunct. “We based the program on industry needs, since not many academic programs existed at that time.  Since then, we continue to enhance and update the program to meet changing needs.”

CyberCroppedCreated with the input of professionals in the field, the course work includes subjects such as Database Security, Cyber Investigations and Forensics, and Cybersecurity Governance and Compliance. The programs remain on the cutting edge by continuously updating the coursework.

“You’re coming out with a cybersecurity degree where you can say I really have some special task knowledge in boundary defense or forensic analysis or penetration testing. That really lines up so much better with not only what the industry is asking for, but what the student wants to do when they grow up,” said Professor Doug Rausch, the current director of the Cybersecurity programs.

Obtaining the recognition as a National Center of Excellence from the NSA and the DHS was a key milestone for the program.

“What are the right institutions to look at? Homeland Security and NSA have said this program meets their requirements,” Rausch said. “That’s a really huge stamp of approval and gets folks interested.”

A robust job market also attracts a lot of interested potential students.  A recent article on Forbes.com estimated that there are more than 200,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States.

“The academic institutions cannot produce enough students to fill that,” Rausch said. “The biggest things that are missing in terms of the skills gap are the ability to understand the business, technical skills and communication skills.”

Communications skills and business knowledge are an often overlooked, but a necessary part of the equation, Rausch explained.

“You have to be able to communicate what you’re finding.  The other aspect is can you apply it to the business? Can you balance that security with the objectives of the business? Take a look at the mission, the business objectives, and how security blends with it,” he said.

Those skills are integrated throughout the Bellevue University Cybersecurity programs through its Skills-to-Performance initiative.

“The program itself is not static,” Rausch said. “It’s literally changing constantly. It’s challenging me to be learning all the time. The flexibility that we’re offered — (Dean of the College of Science and Technology) Mary Dobransky, Mary Hawkins have both been great. There’s a flexibility we get in how we are going to present that, how are we going to work with that material. It’s not easy material. It’s not something that you can learn just from a book you have to learn by doing it.

“We always continue to update the program in terms of the tasks we’re able to train. We’re doing even more expansion of our virtualized environment. The idea is to be able to immerse the student in an organizational network.”