North Dakota University System Making Cyber-Leaps and Bounds

By Darin King, Vice Chancellor for IT and CIO, North Dakota University System

Darin King, Vice Chancellor for IT and CIO, North Dakota University System

Workforce shortages in digital literacy and cybersecurity education are facing off against an explosion of artificial intelligence, digital machines, and internet communication. However, a North Dakota University System team approach is quickly closing the divide as the institutions work collaboratively across the state. 

Bismarck State College (BSC) and North Dakota State University (NDSU recently earned coveted designations from the National Security Agency while two high performing students from Williston State College (WSC)were selected to attend the 2019 Community College Cyber Summit (3CS) in Bossier City, Louisiana.

A monumental amount of credit goes to those campuses, their programs, faculty, staff and students for the individual accomplishments. As we all see in our day-to-day environments, the digital world is continuing to expand at exponential rates. As more things become connected, more things will need to be secured. Have system-wide support for these initiatives and programs that take our students in new directions is essential, and we’re happy to enjoy it here.

On the designations, the NSA notes that its program aims to “reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense and producing professionals with cyber defense expertise.”

Locally, that resulted in BSC and NDSU were respectively named among those having the distinction of being a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) for associate degree education, and Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) for research. As would be expected, the institutions had to perform to incredibly high standard to receive the designations, including having to meet requirements such as a cyber defense academic curriculum path; student skill development and assessment; a “center” for cyber education; cyber faculty qualifications and records of courses taught; cyber defense as a multidisciplinary practice at the institution in question; an institutional security plan; cyber outreach and collaboration beyond the institution; and producing graduate-level students in cyber defense.

Additionally at BSC, a recent partnership with Palo Alto Networks has secured resources and manpower to address locally what is commonly thought of as a growing national gap in cybersecurity and networking-related jobs. At BSC, the cybersecurity program will be able to increase in course offerings, as well as potentially grow the student base and address challenges throughout the state and region.

At WSC, the two high-performing students who attended 3CS happen to be a husband and wife team. Numerous students from throughout the NDUS’ 11 public colleges and universities had made it to the quarter-finals of the cybersecurity challenge. Both students noted that the education they’d received at the relatively small two-year community college had been integral to their gaining entry into the finals.

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