Education - Page 6 - Keeping up with cybersecurity

Education
- Page 6
Keeping up with cybersecurity
Agile schools adapt to continuously evolving field

By Carol Sorgen, Contributing Writer

We live in a fast-paced, quick-changing, technology-driven world, and Maryland universities are making sure they’re preparing students to meet real-world challenges.

Frostburg University Revamps M.S. Degree
Frostburg State University has offered a Master of Science degree in applied computer science since the early 2000s, with an online program available since 2014. The mission of the department is to present students with an up-to-date curriculum in the computer science and information systems disciplines, ensure that they have a solid foundation in the core concepts, equip them with problem-solving and decision-making skills, and prepare them for lifelong learning in the discipline.

A distinction of Frostburg’s program, according to George B. Rinard, Ph.D., chair of the department of computer science and information technologies, is that students without an undergraduate major in computer science can pursue the graduate degree. “If you have the skills, you can gain admission,” he says.

The career outlook for those graduating with their M.S. in applied computer science is bright, Rinard notes. “There is a nationwide shortage for those with up-to-date computer science skills,” says Rinard. “All our graduates who want to be employed are employed.”

Jonathan Yantz has been working as an intern and part-time employee for Northrop Grumman for the past two years and will soon start work there full-time. The 23-year-old Bel Air resident chose Frostburg as an undergraduate because of the school’s strength and continuing growth in the computer science field.

“I decided to stay at Frostburg for my M.S., in part, because the school offers a ‘4 plus 1 program,’ allowing me to complete my degree in one year,” says Yantz. “I also chose it because of the incredible professors who make this program as spectacular as it is.”

Yantz, a fourth-generation Frostburg student, thinks that the master’s program has encouraged him to dive more deeply into technologies that he would not otherwise have paid attention to.

“I feel that this program has further strengthened my problem-solving skills due to the encouragement from the professors, as well as giving me the opportunity to try new things and learn new skills. These skills will help me to become a more versatile worker, and be able to take on new tasks and solve complex problems in situations I have never seen before.”

The degree offers flexibility when it comes to employment, with FSU graduates obtaining positions in government agencies such as the Department of Defense and major corporations such as Google and IBM. There are alumni who have even gone the entrepreneurial route and started their own companies, according to Rinard.

“Whatever a student’s career goal, we can probably match it to the coursework available,” Rinard says, adding that FSU’s program is unique because it is strongly based in applied computer science, rather than theory.

“We want to give our students information that is relevant,” Rinard continues. “If it’s current in the industry, it’s in our curriculum within several months.”

UMUC Recognized for Cybersecurity Program
University of Maryland University College (UMUC) was recently awarded “Best Cybersecurity Higher Education Program” by SC Magazine. The Master of Science cybersecurity degree program was recently overhauled, and emphasizes real-world experience, rather than theory, and actual problem-solving instead of traditional exams. This approach not only prepares students to enter the workforce as soon as they graduate, but also eliminates textbooks, which become quickly outdated in the field of computer science. According to Mansur Hasib, D.Sc., program chair of the cybersecurity technology master’s degree, students now save approximately $14 million a year by not having to purchase textbooks.

Coursework in the program features emerging topics and projects and the skills and knowledge employers are looking for. “It’s not enough to know things, but it’s also important to know how to do things,” says Hasib.

Students also have the opportunity to meet prospective employers through conferences and
recruitment and networking events, while a board of industry leaders and employers advise the faculty to ensure that the cybersecurity programs are keeping current with emerging areas. Faculty members are “scholar-practitioners,” who are experienced in the field and serve both as professors and coaches. State-of-the-art technology also ensures that students have a practical understanding of the concepts discussed.

In addition to developing their cybersecurity skills, students are also coached in developing executive presentation and strong writing skills. “To be successful, you must know how to communicate,” says Hasib.

Students can take classes either online or in a hybrid format, and virtual labs are available to all students. The 36-credit program can be completed part-time in just 18 months.

The revitalization of the program is a characteristic of UMUC’s “holistic” orientation, says Hasib, noting, “We are a very nimble university. If we determine we need to make programmatic changes, we can make a decision and make it happen.”

Recent graduate Tomiko Evans, who is 44 and lives in Lawrenceville, Ga., works at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as a cybersecurity consultant for The Goal Inc. Evans initially wanted to pursue a master’s degree in digital forensics but found that she needed more flexibility in her schedule, which the cybersecurity program offered.

She also realized that cybersecurity is a field that is in demand.“Every company will eventually need assistance in this skill set,” she says. “This is perfect for me. I can be an asset to various companies as I assist them in protecting their data, and I can introduce the younger generation to the cybersecurity field.

Cybersecurity, continued on page 9


PHOTO DESCRIPTION:
Above left: Frostburg State University students Jonathan Yantz, left, and Patrick Geiger, with their poster on “Proactively Protecting Networks with the Use of Neural Networks.”