BYU has been designated as a center of excellence for it’s cybersecurity education.
The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security award schools, such as BYU, that apply for and meet accreditation standards. Because BYU met all federal mandates, it was awarded as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.
The accreditation required not only that BYU teach a cybersecurity program, but that proper security methods were being taught across campus.
The award provides scholarship and grant opportunities to students and professors as well as a head start to those interested in working for the government in cybersecurity.
An assistant professor in the school of Engineering and Technology, Dale Rowe, and his student assistants made this award possible. He and the students spent hours mapping cybersecurity across campus. After finally submitting the information to apply for the award, they waited anxiously for the good news.
“We weren’t counting on it, but we were hopeful,” Rowe said. “It was a great victory (to get the award).”
Jordan Sheen, a master’s student of Science and Technology, helped Dr. Rowe extensively. Sheen spent the summer of 2011 mapping the syllabuses, textbooks and lab assignments of the curriculum to be sure it matched the accreditation requirements.
“It is a very thorough evaluation of what we do in the program,” Sheen said.
Austin Whipple, an IT student who assisted Dr. Rowe said the award will bring scholarships, grants, job recruiters and internships to BYU students and that he plans on applying for those scholarships.
“I am very involved in cybersecurity,” Whipple said. “It’s my passion.”
The award will last from 2012-2017, after which the IT department will be required to reapply. BYU is the first school in Utah to be formally recognized by the federal government and only 130 other schools hold the same status.
Rowe and his colleague J. Ekstrom, an associate professor of Information Technology, wanted the award after creating cybersecurity as an emphasis within the IT program. Ekstrom began working to integrate cybersecurity into the IT program in 2004.
A fellow student who helped with the project, Kellie Kercher, said the emphasis has taken off and gained momentum. She recommend any student who is interested in cybersecurity to take a few classes and try it out.
“Cybersecurity is fascinating,” she said. “You are constantly under attack on your computer and it is a service to learn how to have these skills.”