CU named center of academic excellence in cyber operations

CEDARVILLE — The National Security Agency has named Cedarville University a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.

Only 20 universities and institutions of higher learning currently hold this designation, including the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Postgraduate School, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Texas A&M University. Cedarville University is the fourth institution from the Dayton region named as a National Center of Academic Excellence, joining the Air Force Institute of Technology, Clark State Community College, and Sinclair Community College. The Ohio State University, Terra State Community College, and the University of Cincinnati are the other Ohio institutions.

Cedarville’s cybersecurity program underwent and successfully passed an onsite review by an NSA team to determine if it met the CAE-Cyber Operations program criteria. Criteria included meeting 20 academic content categories, such as assembly language programming, software reverse engineering, computer networking, cyber defense, and the legal and ethical aspects of cyber; an extensive curriculum review to determine if cyber operations was part of a technically deep computer science program; and assessment of whether cyber operations is taught across academic disciplines such as engineering and information technology.

This prestigious designation now allows Cedarville University to provide its cybersecurity students more career and professional options and will provide more funding streams for Cedarville to grow its cyber program.

“This is a game-changer for our cyber program,” said Seth Hamman, associate professor of computer science. “This is like an accreditation — an objective, outside stamp of approval on a program. This gives us credibility when we say we do cyber here — it is powerful. It includes us in a small, tight-knit community that is the who’s who of cybersecurity education. This is also a victory for our region because it helps make the case that the Cincinnati-Dayton cyber corridor is a nationwide hub of cyber activity.”

According to a letter from NSA, the agency views Centers for Academic Excellence as the training ground for “the future workforce that will possess the knowledge and skills related to specialized intelligence, military and law-enforcement operations.” According to the letter, NSA recognized Cedarville’s Bachelor of Science in computer science with a specialization in cyber operations as fulfilling its exacting standards.

In reflecting on the CAE designation, Hamman acknowledged the significance of three professors who built Cedarville’s computer science program: Dr. Dave Gallagher and Dr. Keith Shomper, professors of computer science, and Professor Robert Schumacher, associate professor emeritus of mathematics.

“They are all retired Air Force and spent time teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Air Force’s graduate school [the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base],” he said. “These men not only brought an incredible amount of expertise with them to Cedarville when they built our program, but also connections that strengthened our program and have provided amazing opportunities for our students, especially in the areas of cybersecurity.”

With trustee approval May 4, Cedarville also launched the Center for the Advancement of Cybersecurity. Hamman will serve as it’s inaugural director. The Center will work to develop cyber leaders in the classroom, shape the future of cyber education among institutions of higher learning, and promote cyber awareness in society.

“We constantly cultivate in our students Christ-centered morals — knowing right from wrong, standing for justice and a willingness to sacrifice personally for the greater good,” he said. “Our students have clarity, conviction, and character — all vitally important attributes for creating a secure cyberspace. That’s the vision.”

In addition to its recognized program in cyber operations, Cedarville offers a BS in computer science degree as well, where students prepare for careers in software engineering and web and mobile development. Beginning in the fall, Cedarville’s M.B.A. program will offer a concentration in cybersecurity. This new program will develop professionals who can proactively protect their businesses, organizations and ministries online and safeguard customer and supporter personal and financial information.

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