NSA/DHS certification puts Radford among cyber security elite
At the National Cyber Security Summit in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 8, Radford University was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Through 2021, Radford will be at the forefront of preparing graduates in cyber security and meeting the evolving demands of cyber security education. Radford is one of only six four-year institutions in Virginia designated as a CAE-CDE institution. Radford is one of only 127 four-year institutions in the country to earn the prestigious national designation.
"The certification distinguishes Radford as a leader in a field that is critical to protecting our national digital infrastructure," said College of Science and Technology Dean Orion Rogers.
"We are honored to receive this distinction from the nation’s foremost experts," said Chairman of the Department of Information Technology Jeff Pittges. "There are very real advantages attached to this designation for our students and faculty that will support Radford’s efforts to continue its contributions toward making our nation, and the world, a safer place."
DHS and NSA jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) program. Schools are designated based on their robust degree programs and their alignment to specific cyber security-related knowledge units. CAE CDE-program graduates help protect national security information systems, commercial networks and critical information infrastructure in the private and public sectors. Led by Associate Professor of Information Technology Prem Uppuluri, Radford achieved the designation by meeting the program’s rigorous standards.
"The NSA and DHS have decided these are areas of competence that cyber security professionals must have and Radford University received one of the highest scores in the country at developing these competencies in our graduates," Pittges said. "You need a complete and comprehensive approach to security and that is what Radford provides."
According to Pittges, the CAE-CDE designation will give Radford additional access to scholarships, research and recruiting opportunities. He pointed out that the designation covers the university as a whole and that it reflects the campus wide commitment to cyber security.
"This is a comprehensive certification, not one targeted at a single department or program," Pittges said. "Our department works with the other departments to create and develop unique opportunities that prepare Radford graduates for a dynamic field in which there is a strong demand."
Uppuluri worked with faculty from the departments of Criminal Justice, and Mathematics and Statistics, as well as the Radford University Forensic Science Institute and Academic Computing to reflect the campus’ range of courses and opportunities.
"Radford has a rich depth of multidisciplinary cyber education classes and provides our students a wide range of research opportunities and exposure to practical cyber applications," Uppuluri said.
The CAE-CDE’s designation further aligns Radford with Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s initiative for a "New Economy for Virginia." At the Commonwealth Conference on Cyber and Education at Northern Virginia Community College in December, McAuliffe challenged the technology and education leaders to "turbocharge cyber education" and said the technology and cyber fields are "where the jobs of tomorrow will be."
Overcoming the state’s deficit of more than 17,000 cyber or technology professionals was the event's clarion call. The challenges of a cyber world in which almost 50,000 spam and virus attacks annually threaten the state’s computer infrastructure set a stark backdrop.
"Cyber security highlights the vast area of topics that make up information technology - networking, operating systems, cryptography, digital forensics, software engineering and the backbone of the Internet, web technology," said Uppuluri, who is also the coordinator of Radford’s Center for Information Security (CIS). "Radford is part of the solution and we will continue to contribute to the flow of talent that enhances this critical infrastructure."
The CIS is one example of Radford’s cyber security initiatives. Among its programs is one that instructs K-12 students and area teachers in cyber security. In 2015, the Center implemented the program, funded by a National Security Administration (NSA) grant, at the Shenandoah and Southwest Virginia Governor’s Schools and recently added a program at Christiansburg High School. The CIS also supplements the department's offerings with a certificate program in information security.
Cyber security is also a key component of the curriculum of Radford’s M.S. Data and Information Management (MS-DAIM) program, the only such program in Virginia and the first STEM-H graduate program offered by the College of Science and Technology. The MS-DAIM degree program produces database engineers and administrators, data architects and information managers who design, develop and manage scalable information infrastructure and systems and processes to acquire, protect and deliver valuable information assets.