NSA designates Wright State center for cyber defense education

Vance Saunders, director of the Wright State University cybersecurity program in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering./CONTRIBUTED
Vance Saunders, director of the Wright State University cybersecurity program in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering./CONTRIBUTED

Wright State University has won a federal designation as a go-to center for cyber defense education.

The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security designated Wright State’s master degree cyber program as a “national center of academic excellence in cyber defense education,” the university recently said in a release.

The designation opens doors to courses and certifications that could lead to certain defense jobs for students.

“That would put you ahead of someone who didn’t have the designation,” Vance Saunders, director of Wright State’s cybersecurity program, said.

Related: Wright State budget troubles: ‘Snowball rolled downhill, and we were left to deal with that’

The program that won the designation is part of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Your ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the national information infrastructure,” Karen Leuschner, director of the National Centers of Academic Excellence, said in a June 15 letter to Wright State.

Official letters of notification were also sent to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio’s congressional delegation and others.

“It’s a big deal,” Saunders said. “It’s a good thing to have. It’s great recognition and a good indicator of a strong cyber program.”

The federal government created the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in cyber defense and cyber operations in 1999. The goal of the program is to reduce the vulnerability of the national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense.

Related: Wright State University announces initiative to fight racism

Saunders said the designation, which is good through the 2025 academic year, is very much like receiving an accreditation.

“There are certain knowledge units you have to provide,” he said. “There are certain capabilities your faculty has to have.”

Today, nine Ohio schools have the designation. Five are in Southwest Ohio in what Wright State called the “CinDay Cyber Corridor.”

Area institutions that have the designation include the Air Force Institute of Technology, Sinclair and Clark State community colleges and the University of Cincinnati.

“That’s pretty amazing,” said Saunders. “This designation continues to reinforce the amazing strength of CAE-designated institutions here in the Miami Valley.”

Saunders said the designation also opens up some opportunities, including new scholarships that become available.

To achieve the CAE designation in Wright State’s master’s degree in cybersecurity with cyberdefense concentration, a student must take six required courses, one elective and complete a thesis.

“Saunders said having a CAE-CD certified designation on their transcripts will enhance students’ prospects of landing important Defense Department and other government jobs,” Wright State said.

Related: WSU GIS certificate program help students boost earning potential

Wright State offers a bachelor’s degree and certificate in cybersecurity as well as a master’s degree and certificate.

“We have one of the most robust, comprehensive cyber programs across the board,” said Saunders.