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BSU receives nearly $1.2 million for cybersecurity education

Andrea Blackstone | 2/4/2015, 6 a.m.
Bowie State University (BSU) will receive nearly $1.2 million in federal funding over the next five years to support cybersecurity ...
Weldon Jackson, Ph.D., Provost, Bowie State University

— Bowie State University (BSU) will receive nearly $1.2 million in federal funding over the next five years to support cybersecurity education.

The money is part of a $25 million grant from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) through its Minority Serving Institutions Partnerships Program (MSIPP). Bowie State is the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Maryland awarded the funding.

The creation of a new cybersecurity consortium consists of 13 HBCUs, two national labs and a K-12 school district. In addition to BSU, participating consortium members are: Norfolk State University (lead); Clark Atlanta University; Paine College; North Carolina A&T State University; Allen University; Benedict College; Claflin University; Denmark Technical College; Morris College; South Carolina State University; Voorhees College; Charleston County School District; University of the Virgin Islands; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory.

“The purpose is to develop and pilot a K-20 (kindergarten to college) pipeline that encourages and prepares students for cybersecurity careers,” BSU provost Weldon Jackson said.

Jackson explained that along with Norfolk State University, Voorhees College, North Carolina A&T University, University of the Virgin Islands and Sandia National Labs, BSU participated in an existing NNSA-funded project that is designed to address workforce development needs in cybersecurity. Thus, BSU has become a leader in cybersecurity training at HBCUs.

“As part of the consortium, Bowie State University will expand its cybersecurity research efforts, enhance its cybersecurity curriculum, and increase opportunities for students to learn from real-world experiences in the field. The grant will also allow Bowie State to increase its technological capability and develop additional K-12 pipeline summer programs,” Jackson said. “The grant also directly relates to the University’s first signature program, the Education Innovation Initiative (EI2), which is designed to increase student enrollment and retention. The initiative integrates hands-on, real-world problem-solving in the classroom with collaboration from industry and agency partners, helps students see themselves as scientists and researchers, and builds a critical mass of faculty who integrate experiential learning into the curriculum.”

Funding and enhanced cybersecurity programming will reportedly start at Bowie in the spring 2015 semester. Students who attend BSU will also participate in internships at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, N.M. Interns will receive training provided by industry professionals. They will also be exposed to cybersecurity case studies.

“This grant will help to strengthen the cybersecurity pipeline by increasing the capacity for pertinent academic training and research in NNSA focus areas at minority-serving institutions (MSI). MSI faculty will engage in collaborative research and technical workshops, and students will gain meaningful mentoring experiences to increase their interest and expertise in cybersecurity,” Jackson said.

Training diverse cybersecurity professionals is expected to enhance well-paying job opportunities in a growing field.

“Maryland is the global epicenter of cybersecurity, developing our nation’s cyber workforce to fill cyber jobs that are available now,” Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) said in a press release issued Jan. 23, 2015. “I am proud to see that Bowie State University is a partner in this new consortium to train cybersecurity workers to fill jobs today and jobs tomorrow. Through cyber education, innovation and hands-on training, we will prepare students to be our first line of defense against cyber-attacks, making our nation safer and Maryland’s economy stronger.”