$3.9 million grant will help place more TU students in vital cybersecurity jobs

By Megan Bradshaw on October 9, 2017

TU is one of 19 National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations

Members of Towson University’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences in the Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics recently received a $3.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation called Scholarship for Service (SFS).

The grant, which extends over five years, will help CIS faculty Josh Dehlinger, Shiva Azadegan,  Sidd Kaza, Blair Taylor, Michael O’Leary, and Nam Nguyen to expand TU’s current CyberCorps program.

Learn more about TU’s undergraduate cybersecurity track

Since September 2012, the program has funded 26 students (up to two-year scholarships that include full tuition, books, an approximately $22,000 annual stipend, travel assistance and health insurance) with the goal to develop qualified cybersecurity professionals who will join the state and federal workforce and secure the nation.

One of the top benefits was opening my eyes to job opportunities I would have overlooked. I looked into [public sector] agencies — most importantly federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCS) — a group of opportunities I had never considered. The company I work for now, MITRE, is a dream job for me. I never would have gotten here without CyberCorps.  ”

Emily Jay ‘14

The new grant aims to support 32 more highly qualified computer science professionals and develop a pathway between TU and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). TU is partnering with James Braman and Fred Bartlett at CCBC. Braman is a former TU lecturer and graduated from Towson University with a doctorate in information technology. Bartlett also has TU roots, graduating in 2009 with a master’s degree in instructional design and technology.

In addition, approximately 250K of the grant has been earmarked (under co-PIs Blair Taylor and Sidd Kaza) to host a Cyber Security Education Workshop in collaboration with the College of Cyber at the National Security Agency. The goal of the workshop is to bring together experts in cybersecurity with representatives from funding agencies, to discuss ways to strengthen and build upon ongoing cybersecurity education efforts. 

“Cybersecurity is a critical national need. Towson faculty have always been at the forefront of cybersecurity education and research,” said Sidd Kaza, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at TU. “This grant and others speak to our excellent research, teaching, and cutting-edge degree programs.”

The teachers were so supportive and encouraging, the network you gain is amazing, and the program is just wonderful. We get paid to do what we love and are almost ensured to get a job. I got the exact job I wanted. I love this program and it was one of the major highlights of my time at Towson. ”

Jenna K. '16

TU's SFS program students have had a 100 percent success rate with internship and postgrad placement, with 77 percent working for federal agencies like the NSA, the FBI, DHS, USCERT and HH OIG. 

Emily Jay head shot
Emily Jay '14

One of those students is Emily Jay '14. She joined CyberCorps at the encouragement of her sister, a fellow TU alumna and cybersecurity professional. Jay participated in TU's Cyber Defense Club and even took part in a cyber competition at MITRE years before she was hired there. She very much enjoys her work; she mainly implements security and acts as a consultant when building a network.

Forty-six percent of the scholarship students are from populations that are traditionally underrepresented in computer science (i.e., minorities and women). Fisher College's minority enrollment has skyrocketed, increasing 84 percent in the last five years. The SFS grant will help the college continue that effort. One of the main goals of the project is to support underrepresented groups in cybersecurity—women, people of color, community college transfers and first-generation college students.

TU is one of 19 National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations (the only one in Maryland) and has been a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education since 2002. The department has approximately 1,900 majors across its three undergraduate and three graduate programs.