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USM Earns National Designation as Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

Thu, 12/07/2023 - 04:06pm | By: Van Arnold

Through its diligent efforts in cybersecurity education, The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has earned distinction as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). The prestigious honor is earned via a program established by The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

USM’s School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering (CSCE) initiated the award process that included a comprehensive evaluation of the University’s commitment to academic excellence in cybersecurity education.

“This would include showcasing curriculum rigor, faculty expertise, research initiatives, and collaboration with industry partners,” said Dr. Nick Rahimi, CSCE Assistant Professor, who spearheaded the application effort. “The application underwent a thorough review by cybersecurity experts and authorities associated with the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense program.”

Recognizing the need to secure the infrastructure of the United States, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security launched the program whose aim is to ensure cyber defense professionals graduate from institutions of higher education with exceptional theoretical and hands-on experience in cybersecurity.

Dr. Chris Winstead, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at USM, emphasizes that the CAE-CD designation indicates that the cybersecurity course work and programming offered at USM meets the standards of academic excellence established by a variety of federal agencies that participate in the program.  

“The need for highly trained cybersecurity professionals is growing much faster than the average of all professions and is a matter of national security,” said Winstead. “This designation tells employers that our students will graduate with the knowledge necessary to move into these critical positions and are ready to help protect our cyber infrastructure in an increasingly challenging environment.”

Added Dr. Doug Masterson, Senior Associate Provost at USM, “The School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering has worked diligently to identify this as an area of increasing national importance and job opportunities for Southern Miss graduates. This recognition illustrates the quality of our Cybersecurity BAS program.”

In addition to a robust cybersecurity curriculum and qualified, experienced faculty, Rahimi highlights the hands-on learning experiences available to students.

“We provide students with ample opportunities to apply their knowledge in practical settings through labs, simulations, and real-world projects,” said Rahimi.

He notes that the designation is not an endpoint, but rather a launchpad for further growth.

“The CAE-CD designation carries significant weight,” said Rahimi. “It enhances the reputation of USM and elevates the School of CSCE as a leading institution in cybersecurity education, attracting top-tier students, prospective faculty, and potential research partners. Receiving the designation was a moment of immense pride and accomplishment for the entire CSCE School.”

Learn more about USM’s School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering or call 601.266.4949.