Recognizing the need for cybersecurity professionals, the University of Maryland and Northrop Grumman have teamed to develop a curriculum to produce graduates who can enter the workforce with an eye toward cybersecurity defense.
Northrop Grumman will provide financial support in the form of an initial $1 million gift, and the university will begin in fall 2013 to develop 45 students per year in the Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES) program.
The students, from majors including computer science, engineering, business, public policy and social sciences, will live together in a “learning-living” program and use state-of-the-art laboratories in the yearlong capstone project.
The goals are actually twofold. One, of course, is to breed an interest in cybersecurity among very talented students. Another is to develop more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students for which there is a shortage.
“The idea was that cybersecurity is an exciting science-engineering-technology-driven field that could very well be a gateway to bringing more people into STEM,” said Michael Hicks, director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center. “It’s important in and of itself but it has generated a lot of energy and enthusiasm across a broad demographic.”
Hicks noted that GDP increases are related to STEM activities and the country is falling behind in producing STEM majors.
With a lack of cybersecurity professionals and an upward trend of cyberattacks, graduates of the ACES program should be in demand. Students will have the option of interning with Northrop Grumman.
“We are fully committed to developing solutions to help eliminate the nation’s shortage of critical, STEM-educated talent and by partnering with the University of Maryland, we will address workforce challenges in the increasingly important field of cybersecurity,” Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman, said in a press release.
The $1 million gift will provide the students with dorms, labs and other equipment unique to the program. The university will fund the program on a yearly basis as well.
Students in the program will engage in a cross-disciplinary curriculum developed through consultation with industry experts and will interact directly with industry and government cybersecurity experts. Northrop Grumman will provide guest lecturers.
The curriculum will include general cybersecurity courses along with cybersecurity forensics; reverse engineering; secure coding; criminology; and law and public safety. In a yearlong capstone course the seniors will engage in solving complex cybersecurity problems.
The ACES program will be the seventh living-learning program in the university’s Honors College. The university invites about 1,000 students each year to its Honors College. The small enrollment enables students to cover more sophisticated material, according to the university website.
Hicks said it’s the Honors College that separates this program from other cybersecurity courses and certification programs.
“There are lots of universities that have cybersecurity courses or professional certifications — there’s tons of them,” Hicks said. “What we decided was missing was really motivating the best of the best. The Honors College kids are amazing. We see kids who have perfect SAT scores and a half dozen or more [advanced placement] classes. They’re really, really good.”