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PSC designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

by FloridaWest News




The National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently designated Pensacola State College as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) through 2028.

The CAE-CD designation is awarded to regionally accredited academic institutions offering cybersecurity degrees and/or certificates at the associate, baccalaureate and graduate levels. 

To receive the designation, institutions must meet rigorous program and institutional requirements outlined by the NSA,” said PSC Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support Kirk Bradley of the five-year (2023-2028) designation.

The designation is an amazing accolade for the institution and illustrates the hard work and commitment to excellence of PSC’s cybersecurity faculty and staff,” Bradley said.

The College is one of several public and private Florida universities and colleges to receive the designation. Institutions designated as CAEs in Cyber Defense:

  • Are recognized by the federal government for their cyber defense programs and curricula.
  • Have curricula mapped to specified Knowledge Units, which align with the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, a cybersecurity language that educators, industry workers and government organizations employ nationwide.
  • Have degree programs that are a top choice for students who want to learn the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the cybersecurity workforce.
  • Assist federal agencies by providing academic insight into cyber-related programs at the Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency, and other federal agencies.
  • Serve as a potential source and facilitator for government-academic researcher exchanges.
  • Facilitate the development of faculty and research leaders.
  • Participate in an extensive network of cybersecurity professionals, educators, researchers and advocates to grow the cyber field.
  • Are privy to opportunities for student scholarships and grants through the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program and the Federal CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program.

In the award letter, Renae Weather, National CAE Program Manager at the NSA, noted the College’s ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria and help address the critical shortage of cybersecurity professionals.

“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,” Weather wrote in the letter.

PSC President Ed Meadows said the cybersecurity degree programs are among the College’s most popular.

“Degrees in cybersecurity offer fulfilling careers with competitive pay and a secure future in both the private and government sectors,” Meadows said.

“Pensacola State College administrators also realized the cybersecurity degree programs would help provide a pipeline of qualified IT professionals to Northwest Florida’s growing cybersecurity industry and help economic development agencies recruit even more companies to the region ─ because of the availability of a trained workforce.”

Being designated a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense has been a goal for Pensacola State for several years.

The CAE-CD program focuses on providing a cybersecurity workforce to meet the needs of the nation, government, industry and academia. Complementary in nature, the CAE-CD program focuses on technologies and techniques related to specialized cyber operations (e.g., collection, exploitation and response) to enhance the national security posture of the nation.

The stated goals of the CAE-CD program are to:

  • Reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense.
  • Produce a growing number of professionals with expertise in cyber defense disciplines.
  • Proactively increase understanding of robust CD technology, policy and practices that will enable our nation to prevent and respond to a catastrophic cyber event effectively.
  • Contribute significantly to the advancement of state-of-the-art cyber defense knowledge and practice.

The CAE-CD designation also benefits PSC’s recently announced partnerships to increase the cyber workforce in Northwest Florida.

“Our recent 2+2 articulation agreement with Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) underscores the College’s commitment to increasing the number of qualified cybersecurity professionals ready to enter the workforce,” Bradley said.

The 2+2  Associate in Science in Computer Information Technology at NWFSC to Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity at PSC agreement articulates a special admissions process for NWFSC graduates into the BAS in Cybersecurity at Pensacola State. 

Pensacola State’s cybersecurity degree program is housed in the Donald McMahon III Center for Cybersecurity in the state-of-the-art Baars Technology Building, which opened for classes in the summer of 2020. The facility includes a multi-classroom facility with a secure cybersecurity warfare room. The cyber warfare range allows students to access real-world networks and systems in a protected environment.