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Augusta University Creates Georgia’s First Cybersecurity Engineering Degree Program

The university is one of only a handful to offer the degree and is expanding security learning in conjunction with the nearby Georgia Cyber Center.

(TNS) — To meet growing demand in Augusta for trained cybersecurity experts, Augusta University was allowed Tuesday to add the state's first cybersecurity engineering degree and take two existing degrees that emphasized cyber and make them standalone degrees of their ownthat focus on the field.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents held its monthly meeting at AU on Tuesday and because of Hurricane Michael decided to take care of all of its business then and cancel Wednesday's meeting. The regents decided to grant requests from AU for three degree programs:

  • To establish a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering, the only one in the state and one of a handful in the country
  • To take a Bachelor of Science with a major in computer science and a concentration in cyber to now a Bachelor of Science with a major in cyber operations
  • To change a Bachelor of Science in information technology with a concentration in cybersecurity to a Bachelor of Science with a major in cybersecurity
That now gives the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences five cyber degree programs, Provost Gretchen Caughman said.

Over the past two years, a number of companies in those fields have opened up in the area with significant workforce needs for those skills, and several provided letters of support for the school's proposed changes, AU said in its proposal to the regents. The federal government's cyber operations are also growing in and around Augusta, led by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence, to be followed shortly by the U.S. Army Cyber Command as its moves its headquarters to Fort Gordon beginning next year, the school said.

AU President Brooks Keel said the relocation of Army Cyber headquarters and new companies coming to Augusta will mean 13,000 new people here by 2023, touching off what he fondly calls the "Cyber Tsunami."

"We knew as soon as the Army made the decision to move the Cyber Command that something big was going to happen in Augusta," he said. "There was going to be a seismic event that took place, the center of that seismic event was going to be at Fort Gordon, and it was going to spread across the entire region."

Part of the state's and Gov. Nathan Deal's response to that was to building the $100 million Georgia Cyber Center on AU's Riverfront Campus, the largest state investment in cyber to date, Keel said. The new degree programs are also part of that response, he said.

"You really have to offer this full spectrum of training," Keel said. "It's everything from certifications that may require a weekend or a week to obtain that information on a very narrowly focused area, all the way to a Ph.D. in cyber sciences, which we hope to wind up having here. The thing we have to do is be flexible in terms of what we offer to meet what the industry and the workforce needs, but also in doing that we want to make sure we give students an option a year or two years or three years down the road" to turn that training into a degree.

Caughman said the university is also working with the military to look at ways their training can translate into credits that can be applied to a degree.

"Many of them do have great technical training, but they want that credential (of a degree)," she said. "That's a great opportunity for us all."

The university is already being approached by companies and the military about training opportunities, Keel said.

"(They) come to us and say, 'We need this specific type of training. Can you design a curriculum for it?'" he said. "Absolutely, that's exactly what we want to do. So we'll be working side by side with industry and the federal government and the (Department of Defense) to design specific training they need for their particular workforce. That's going to make us very different."

The cybersecurity engineering degree program seeks to give students a new mindset by not only focusing on software but on hardware and systems as well, said Computer and Cyber Sciences Dean Alexander A. Schwarzmann.

"People who focus just on the software and the cybersecurity are missing a big point," he said. "If one neglects the hardware component of the system, then all you can get is a false sense of security" because components might have malware or bugs written into them, as some companies recently discovered.

The school's current degree programs were already rapidly increasing, with a 428 percent increase in enrollment over the past three years, Caughman said. The same will be true for all computer science-related jobs, Schwarzmann said.

"The demand for the degrees will continue at least for five years in double-digit percentages per year," and is probably at least 20 percent per year, he said.

©2018 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.