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Southeast CC Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Beginning in January 2014, Southeast Community College employees Linda Bettinger (Principal Investigator) and Jo Schuster (Co-PI) will lead a three-year National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grant project to develop a Cyber Security focus for SCC’s Computer Information Technology program.

Norman Stimbert, curriculum coordinator, will lead new curriculum development, and faculty will revise current curriculum to meet Center for Academic Excellence standards. A part-time project coordinator will be hired to assist with grant management tasks. Over the three-year period, the College will be awarded $493,382 in federal funds to complete the project.

In today’s computer-connected society, the need for cyber security in organizations of all types is skyrocketing. Employers and educators alike have begun to realize a critical need for additional training to meet information security needs. In response, SCC will initiate a project to increase the availability and quality of training in cyber security for community college students. The project also will focus on increasing the participation of females and the completion rates of both males and females in the Computer Information Technology program at SCC.

The SECURE-IT project will adapt and integrate curricula developed through CyberWatch, an ATE Center of Excellence, to formulate a unique focus in Cyber Security, culminating in an associate degree that meets the requirements for transfer to four-year institutions. The development of a transferable associate degree will open educational and career opportunities not currently available to SCC’s IT students. To help ensure transferability and increase workforce competence, curricula will be designed to meet exacting Center for Academic Excellence Two-Year standards for cyber security, a designation achieved by only 24 of 1,200 community colleges in the country. Currently only one other Nebraska community college offers a significant cyber security focus, and the closest CAE2Y community college is more than 125 miles away.

Since cyber security is still an emerging field in Nebraska, incumbent IT workers often lack adequate security training. To help meet this training need, SECURE-IT will collaborate with employers to package credit-bearing curricula into a model online/blended training track culminating in a Certificate of Completion. This training track will serve as a model for future collaboration with business and industry in areas such as database administration and programming.

To guide students to a high-demand, high-pay career pathway, the SECURE-IT project will work to increase female participation and male/female graduation rates in the CIT program. Curriculum will be reviewed and modified to include active learning strategies, such as the “flipped classroom,” as a means to engage students, heighten learning, and improve retention. Faculty also will receive training in gender-inclusive practices to help overcome stereotypes that discourage women from pursuing computer careers. Additionally, increased mentoring and high school outreach activities will be implemented to help improve college enrollment and completion for both men and women.

The project will collaborate with the Midwest Center for Information Technology, an NSF ATE Regional Center of Excellence based in Omaha, to provide advanced professional development in cyber security to a four-state audience comprised of community college faculty, high school teachers and industry representatives through its Faculty Academy, held annually in June. SCC faculty also will participate in professional development opportunities through CyberWatch, CSSIA and CSEC, as well as the Nebraska Cyber Security Conference held annually in Lincoln. Collaboration with MCIT and the national CyberWatch Center will provide a means to disseminate curricula and the project models developed through the project on a national stage.

 

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