NSA/DHS Cyber Defense Designation Validates Bachelor of ITM Academic Rigors



By Casey Moffitt

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Information Technology and Management student works in a computer lab

Illinois Institute of Technology’s Bachelor of Information Technology and Management has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the United States Department of Homeland Security as part of a pilot initiative to validate Programs of Study.

NSA’s National Cryptologic School manages the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cybersecurity, which issues Program of Study validations to academic institutions that offer degree and certificate programs with specific courses and experiences.

“This is significant because this means that any student who pursues our bachelor in ITM has an NSA- and DHS-validated degree for cybersecurity education,” says Maurice Dawson, assistant professor of information technology and management.

The designation, valid through 2028, also qualifies Illinois Tech students for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Cyber Scholarship Program, which covers the costs of tuition and books and provides a stipend.

“[Illinois Tech’s] ability to meet the increasing demands of the program validation will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the national information infrastructure,” says Karen Leuschner, NSA National CAE program manager. “The National Cyber Strategy, September 2018, addresses the critical shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills and highlights the importance of higher education as a solution to defending America’s cyberspace.”

The designation not only acknowledges the quality of the program, but also recognizes the important role that the Center for Cyber Security and Forensic Education (C2SAFE) plays in enhancing the academic experience through engagement with business and industry, government, professional associations, and community colleges to enhance knowledge, awareness, and education in cybersecurity and digital forensics and to improve practices in information assurance.

“As an institution, we display core values such as ethical behavior, shared core values, and leading by example, which are core principles and behavior required for the CAE in cybersecurity,” Dawson says. “The C²SAFE’s goal is to recruit, train, and deploy the best talent to secure this country’s critical infrastructure.”

Additional degree programs offered by Illinois Tech’s College of Computing will be submitted for designation as CAEs as the NSA expands the program focus on validation by Programs of Study. Illinois Tech is further supporting the NSA CAE programs through the efforts of Louis McHugh, Office of Technology Services director of Cyber-Tech Security and adjunct industry professor of information technology and management, as a mentor and peer evaluator for CAE program designations.

As well as earning this designation from the NSA, the Bachelor of Information Technology and Management is one of only 55 programs in the United States to be accredited by ABET in Information Technology, and the only one in Illinois. Additionally, Illinois Tech C²SAFE also has partnerships with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the United States Strategic Command (USTRATCOM) North American Defense and Security Academic Alliance (NADSAA). USSTRATCOM is one of the eleven unified combatant commands in the Department of Defense.

The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program aims to create and manage a collaborative cybersecurity educational program with community colleges, colleges, and universities that share core beliefs:

Establish standards for cybersecurity curriculum and academic excellence

Include competency development among students and faculty

Value community outreach and leadership in professional development

Integrate cybersecurity practices within the institution across academic disciplines

Actively engage in solutions to challenges facing cybersecurity education