(TNS) — Texas A&M University-San Antonio officials announced a collaboration Wednesday with Facebook to offer courses in cybersecurity.
The Facebook Cyber Security University Program has partnered with eight other institutions, but the one at the South Side campus will be the first in Texas.
Top-performing students may be eligible for internships with the social media giant, officials said.
A&M-San Antonio has worked to position itself as a leader in cybersecurity education and the arrangement with Facebook will help that pursuit, university president Cynthia Teniente-Matson said.
“This is truly a first in Texas program and it’s the kind of innovative course and innovative thinking that A&M-San Antonio is committed to developing in collaboration with enormous industry leaders like Facebook,” she said.
This summer, the school received a grant from the National Science Foundation to bolster a three-year project to recruit students and strengthen their pipeline into the field. It opened a $63 million science and technology building this year to house the Center for Information Technology and Cyber Security and other STEM programs.
The first Facebook course has eight students already enrolled. Students will be able to receive mentoring from Facebook professionals and hands-on training to respond to simulated cyberattacks, and be eligible for Facebook scholarships and security internships.
They also can attend special industry conferences, which student David Velas got to do this summer before the courses were introduced.
“I’ve already benefited from this powerful combination,” he told attendees at the announcement.
Vela, who started selling computers at Best Buy and went on to work for 10 years in information technology, is completing a bachelors degree at A&M-San Antonio.
“I understand first hand the important role cybersecurity plays in keeping businesses up and running, protecting customer information and maintaining a strong corporate reputation,” he said.
The announcement comes as Facebook and other social media platforms have faced months of scrutiny and criticism for the way they disseminate news and share user data.
Facebook’s cybersecurity programs and operations manager, Stephanie Siteman, said her focus is on diversity in academics and that she hopes some public trust will be restored through the company’s efforts to expose students to opportunities they might not otherwise have.
“We try to show all the good that we’re doing for Facebook, so hopefully programs like this, the global outreach that we do, that they can see that we do have good intent when it comes to education and diversity,” Siteman said.
Teniente-Matson cited public commitments by top Facebook officials to improving cybersecurity. She said the classes are taught by A&M-San Antonio professors using a Facebook curriculum.
“I think that, for me, is why I felt comfortable with the partnership, because the academic integrity is still overseen by a faculty member,” Teniente-Matson said. “But the commitment to what happens on the frontline and the commitment to what’s really happening in the workplace, what’s really happening in cyberattacks, is coming from a business perspective from Facebook.”
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