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Rhode Island College Launches New Cybersecurity Program

The Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies, located within the business school at RIC’s Providence campus, hosts degree programs in computer science, cybersecurity and computer information systems.

Lines of green code forming a tunnel with the words "cyber security education" inside it in white font. Black background.
Rhode Island College (RIC) this week officially launched an academic program that school leaders and elected officials believe will train students to fill thousands of jobs in the data-protection realm across the Ocean State and beyond.

Gov. Dan McKee and former Congressman James Langevin were on the Providence campus Monday to celebrate the Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies, according to RIC’s website. The institute will offer bachelor’s degree programs and minors in cybersecurity, computer science and computer information systems, in addition to minor courses of study in data analytics and web development.

The website explains the need for the program with a pair of statistics: a prediction by the U.S. Department of Labor that there would be a 34.7 percent increase in the number of information security analysts between 2021 and 2031, and a statistic from that says Rhode Island has more than 2,700 openings for cybersecurity professionals. According to the Center for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, more than 400 U.S. colleges and universities have accredited cybersecurity programs.

Courses in Rhode Island College’s new programs began at the start of the 2023-2024 academic year. In the spring of 2024, students, faculty members and administrators will participate in a symposium to establish a 10-year vision for the institute, according to an April 7 news release that announced $4 million in state funding for the institute.

“The Cyber Institute will provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills required to excel in the digital age. Students will be equipped with the tools and techniques to protect and secure sensitive information from cyber threats and attacks,” Langevin, who was named distinguished chair of the institute, said in a public statement. He represented Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 2001 through 2022. “Moreover, they will be trained to develop and apply machine learning and artificial-intelligence technologies to solve complex problems across various industries. The training needed to fill these important job needs can’t come soon enough.”

The Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies is housed inside RIC’s School of Business, and the new degree programs have a business focus, explained Suzanne Mello-Stark, an associate computer science professor at the school.

“[C]ybersecurity is ultimately a business problem,” she said in a news release posted on the RIC website. “Security breaches put businesses and their clients at risk.”

According to the April news release on the governor’s website, Rhode Island state officials’ own long-term goals for the new center include training opportunities for first responders, military veterans and professionals in the defense, finance, health-care and education industries. They hope the center can establish a fellowship program that attracts top-level professors and researchers. They would also like to see middle- and high-school immersion programs that feed into the center, creating a cybersecurity workforce pipeline.

“The need for robust and strong cybersecurity in our lives is apparent every day,” Rhode Island assemblyman William W. O’Brien, D-North Providence, said in a public statement. “Email and phone scams, identity theft and social-media hacking have unfortunately become common occurrences in all of our lives, and the only way to prevent these frustrating and damaging intrusions into our privacy is with top-notch cybersecurity. In order to protect our digital lives while also strengthening our economy and workforce, Rhode Island needs a place where we can educate and train the next generation of cyberwarriors and protectors, and the proposed Institute for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies at RIC can fill this role as our world grows even more interconnected through emerging digital technologies.”