Three two-year colleges in Maryland were among the first community colleges in the country to be named National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance last month by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Anne Arundel Community College, Hagerstown Community College and Prince Georges Community College were three of six institutions recognized for their proven ability to provide innovative, comprehensive and multidisciplinary education and training in information assurance and cybersecurity.
According to Vera Zdravkovich, a former academic vice president at Prince Georges Community College who helped develop the IA program there, the new designation “is a new opportunity for community colleges in information assurance education. It recognizes quality, provides a form of standardization, builds a seamless pipeline to success for students, and prepares a stronger and better prepared security workforce.”
With support from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technology Education program, which focuses on the education of technicians for high-technology fields, each of the six two-year schools has bolstered its information assurance and cybersecurity programs. The program involves partnerships between schools and employers to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians. Through the ATE program, institutions are able to boost curriculum development and the professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers, as well as create career pathways to two-year colleges from secondary schools and from two-year colleges to four-year institutions.
In 2002, ATE sponsored a workshop on the role of community colleges in cybersecurity education to detail the contributions of two-year institutions to the preparation of cybersecurity professionals. The workshop addressed skill standards and certifications; specification of topics, courses, curricula and programs for cybersecurity programs at community colleges; preparation for cybersecurity positions; and advancing the role of community colleges in cybersecurity education. This event led to the awarding of grants for several projects in cybersecurity around the country and three regional centers that are the first community colleges to be designated as Centers of Academic Excellence.
With help from ATE, Prince Georges Community College has developed and implemented a cybersecurity curriculum, including courses in computer forensics, disaster recovery management, cyber law and secure programming being used at other two-year institutions around the state and region.
The two other colleges designated as national centers include Oklahoma City Community College and Rose State College in Oklahoma, and Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois.