Cybersecurity Center Receives $3.3 Million NSF Grant to Boost Nevada Workforce


Charting a direct path to a career in cybersecurity within the government sector, the University of Nevada, Reno Cybersecurity Center will use a five-year, $3.3 million NSF grant to award scholarships to 23 students from the College of Engineering.

“We will be recruiting current students now, while we work to market the program to potential high school students.” Shamik Sengupta, executive director of the Cybersecurity Center and professor at the College of Engineering, said. “Students majoring in computer science and engineering with a minor in cybersecurity are eligible for the generous scholarships.”

The National Science Foundation CyberCorps Scholarship Program for Service provides students with up to $50,000 per academic year. Students who accept the scholarships reciprocate by agreeing to work in cybersecurity jobs for federal, state, local, or tribal governments in the cybersecurity field of their choice for a term equal to the years of scholarship they receive.

“Other programs have a narrow focus,” said Gi Yun, one of the project leaders and associate dean and professor of journalism. “Ours has a broader appeal in terms of public service areas. Through this program, we give students a public sector mindset and motivate them to serve the public.”

With funding from the National Science Foundation’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, this project aims to educate students with the essential knowledge and skills needed to develop, operate, administer, maintain, and defend an ever-increasing cyberspace. more dynamic.

The University of Nevada, Reno Cybersecurity Center is the first in Nevada to receive this grant, and one of only eight in the country to receive it this year. Under Sengupta’s leadership since its inception in 2014, the Cybersecurity Center has conducted research, raised awareness in local schools, and grown to include minor degrees, graduate certificate, and curriculum colleges that includes a strong sample of colleges and departments. at University.

“The NSF review team was impressed with the multidisciplinary nature of our center,” Sengupta said. “It’s not just about computer science; for example, we have political science, criminal justice, history, public health and journalism programs involved, to name a few.”

To this end, the project will rely on a synergistic collaboration between several disciplines affiliated with the University’s Cybersecurity Center with its 30 members and nine disciplines.

A key outcome of the project is the development of the next generation of cybersecurity professionals who can bring an interdisciplinary approach that integrates attention to technical, policy, legal, and behavioral issues in a convenient, secure, and trusted cyberspace.

The project will draw on students from diverse backgrounds, with a particular focus on recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups in the cybersecurity workforce, such as women, minorities, students from first generation/low income and veterans.

Underrepresented student participation will be encouraged through a partnership with the university’s First Generation Student Services Center, Women into Computer Science and Engineering student organization, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology and will focus on recruiting veterans by partnering with the university’s Veterans Services. .

The two-year student scholarship program pathway includes a summer internship program, a capstone research project, hands-on experience with the Nevada Cyber ​​Club, and applied technical skills with the Cyber ​​Team Infrastructure, Information Technology Office or Security Operations Center and Professional Certification Training with Information Security Officer and Cyber ​​Club Coach. There will be workshops for students on how to apply to employers, networking opportunities with potential employers, such as the FBI, DHS, DOD and other federal organizations – as well as summer internships and full-time jobs.

“There’s even a job fair with 600 employers for about 400 students nationwide in the program — it’s a great networking opportunity,” Sengupta said.

The scholarship provides $25,000 per year plus a stipend of $6,000 for professional development and $13,000 for tuition. In this first year of the scholarship four students will be selected, the second year and third year six students will be selected each year and the fourth year seven students will be selected. Nine of the students will be recruited for three years of scholarships under the accelerated BS/MS program in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

“It’s a very prestigious award,” Yun said. “Only eight new CyberCorp Service Scholarships were awarded nationwide this year.”

The NSF is offering more than $29 million in scholarships over the next five years to these eight universities. These new recipients join the current 82 universities that are part of the NSF CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, representing 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“Being a center of academic excellence in cyber defense played a huge role in getting the SFS grant,” Sengupta said. “The designation is a validation of the strength of the program and the infrastructure that surrounds it. It shows that we are interdisciplinary and have a large number of administrative faculty who support the program, as well as the broad-based advisory board and industry partners that creates successful synergy within Nevada.”

While the Center in Academic Excellence in Cyber ​​Defense designation is a validation of the strength of the program and the infrastructure that surrounds it, such as the Cybersecurity Center and the Nevada Cyber ​​Club, it also opens doors for students. .

“Being a CAE-CD institution, which is awarded by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency, should attract students to the program,” said Nancy LaTourrette, deputy director of the Cybersecurity Center and lecturer in the Department of Security. computing and engineering. “The CAE-CD designation includes not only the core curriculum, but also participation in cyber contests, awareness activities and security research. It is important to have this multi-pronged approach to give students a solid foundation and competitive advantage in cybersecurity.”

The Cybersecurity Center is an interdisciplinary group of faculty who work closely with their industry partners and advisory board to develop holistic solutions to technical and societal challenges in cybersecurity. Since its inception in 2014, the Center has generated over $5 million in NSF-funded research and launched an annual cybersecurity conference, which has helped secure this scholarship program for the University.

“I am very proud of this achievement and especially happy to see this center, which we started just a few years ago, working so well with minimal resources,” College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis said in a statement. a note to Sengupta. “Your dedication and exceptional leadership and the talent of all the teachers involved are the reasons for this. Congratulations and keep it up!”

The investment from the US National Science Foundation aims to increase the volume and strength of the national cybersecurity workforce to meet the demand for dedicated cybersecurity professionals, particularly in government agencies,

“As cyber threats continue to evolve in complexity, our approaches to cybersecurity education and our workforce must also evolve,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “The cybersecurity talent shortage remains a critical issue in the United States, with businesses and government agencies struggling to fill critical cybersecurity positions. These new CyberCorps for Service Scholarship projects engage diverse student populations and provide innovative, high-quality educational experiences that will ensure our nation is prepared to meet future cyber threats with a well-educated workforce.”


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