UNG’s Center for Cyber Operations Education

News headlines across the globe highlight technology breaches and threats to financial, military and other business systems. With cyber security a growing concern, in January UNG launched the Center for Cyber Operations Education, which aims to strengthen workforce opportunities in Georgia and fill critical staffing shortages in private industry and the military.

A 2015 analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, with job postings up 74 percent over the past five years. UNG’s Center for Cyber Operations Education will provide educational resources, research activities, networking opportunities, and career training for military and civilian careers in cybersecurity, cyber operations and cyber defense.

The state of Georgia is home to more than 115 information security companies generating more than $4.7 billion in annual revenue, and Georgia’s Fort Gordon is home to the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and U.S. Army Cyber School.

“UNG will serve as the only university in northeast Georgia dedicated to addressing workforce needs in the area of cyber operations, cyber defense and cybersecurity,” said Dr. Bryson Payne, director of the Center for Cyber Operations Education. “Through this interdisciplinary
center, increased funding for student internships and scholarships will be possible and both faculty and community members will gain greater access to cybersecurity training opportunities.”

Cyber Security Photoshoot.
Both the military and private industry are looking for the unique combination of education in languages, leadership, and cyber operations – and UNG offers a strategic focus on all three.

The center is responsible for planning, coordinating and supporting cyber education in UNG’s 30-county service region. It will have an advisory board consisting of representatives from various academic and administrative disciplines, as well as cybersecurity industry constituents. It emphasizes the university’s current courses in the field and is laying the framework for more programs in the future. The long range goal is to offer undergraduate and graduate-level education, as well as professional certifications.

Currently, UNG offers one degree concentration and two minors in information assurance and security and cybersecurity. Through the Mike Cottrell College of Business, the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems has offered the concentration in information assurance and security as part of the Bachelor of Science degree in computer science since 2004 and serves as many as 80 students per semester in Cybersecurity-related courses.

Because UNG is one of only six senior military colleges in the nation and is designated as The Military College of Georgia, it is uniquely equipped to prepare students for military, federal service and civilian cybersecurity career paths.

“As the U.S. Army continues to grow its Operational Cyber Force, the demand for highly qualified cyber officers and officers with cyber skills will increase. As the commissioning standards remain the same, the accessions process will become more pinpointed and certain aspects of a cadet will be sought-out. Any young cadet or student that can receive the best military education and the best cyber education will most certainly enhance their future opportunities,” said UNG alumna Maj. Katherine Grass, deputy chief of the Officer Division in the Cyber Proponent Office at the U.S. Army Cyber School at Fort Gordon.

“The launch of this new center coupled with UNG’s historic military education will further place it on the cutting edge for young students, both cadets and civilians,” she added.

This summer, the center will be hosting a free two-week residential National Cyber Warrior Academy (NCWA) on the Dahlonega Campus for area high school students who are interested in cyber-related education and/or careers.

The camp is scheduled for June 19 – July 1 and is made possible through funding from the National Security Agency’s GenCyber program.

Geared toward rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in cyber security studies and careers, this program emphasizes personal, organizational, national cybersecurity awareness and ethical cyber operations training. The residential cyber camp will feature more than 80 hours of instruction, including 40 hours of hands-on lab instruction and practical exercises.

The mission of the NCWA is to inspire the next generation of cyber operations and cyber security professionals in the north Georgia region.

To date, 35 students have graduated from UNG with all four courses in the information assurance and security concentration, and more than half of all computer science and information systems graduates in the past three years have taken one or more cybersecurity courses. It is expected for enrollment in these areas to increase by more than 30 percent with the creation of the new center.