Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in America and home to close to 50 colleges and universities, and none of them have an undergraduate cybersecurity degree program. That is, until now. Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Chestnut Hill College is now designing its Cyber Sentinels Program, the first of its kind in this area.
Made possible thanks to a $235,980, three-year capacity building grant from the NSF and its CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program, CHC will partner with cybersecurity experts from both industry and government agencies to develop and implement the new curriculum, which will begin in the fall of 2017. In addition, these recruited experts will serve as adjunct professors and develop the students’ understanding of cybersecurity through hands-on experience. This will allow cybersecurity students to receive training in today’s technology-laden environment by interacting not only with real-world experts, but with the actual hardware and software that is being used daily in the workplace.
“We are so fortunate to have been granted funding from NSF for building this new cybersecurity degree program,” says Pamela King, M.S., principal investigator and instructor in digital forensics. “The Cyber Sentinel Program at CHC will be a wonderful opportunity for students to begin careers in a cutting-edge field with high job growth and good salary potential. We look forward to working with industry and experts in the field to create a challenging and effective program.”
The grant opportunity was identified by the Office of Academic Affairs last spring but according to King, it had been considered for several years following the successful implementation of the digital forensics program in 2012. With the growth of that program, another one that is not widely found in the Philadelphia area, King believes “now is the perfect time,” to kick start the cybersecurity program.
Under the provisions of the grant, the first year will be dedicated to curriculum development. The second will see the beginning of the course roll-out and outreach to two-year colleges such as Community College of Philadelphia, which already works with the College for its digital forensics degree, to create a pathway for transferring students. By the third year, the hope is for national recognition.
“Our goal is, at the end of this third year of the grant, to have a fully formed program that meets all of the criteria and that we can submit to the NSA and Department of Homeland Security in order to receive national recognition under their Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Education,” says King.
In addition to the new program and the opportunities it provides both the College and its students, CHC also recently was awarded school charter status by the International High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA). Hosted by the Delaware Valley HTCIA, CHC is one of only 14 colleges or universities in the world to have such a distinction. This partnership has allowed the College to begin an annual cybersecurity and digital forensics conference, which brings together students and professionals for a day of networking and presentations. Association with the HTCIA also allows students to take free webinars, get discount tickets to the HTCIA national conference, attend chapter meetings and more.
“We have a lot of good contacts at Del Val that are helping us with the digital forensics program and are already lined up to help with the cybersecurity program,” says King. “They have helped our students get internships and have served as mentors. There really are a lot of great people there and we are looking forward to working with them in a further capacity.”
— Marilee Gallagher ’14