College Cybersecurity Program Validated by NSA; Earns Certification as a Center of Academic Excellence
Riverside City College has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Karen Leuschner, the National CAE Program manager of the National Security Agency, said that the College’s program “will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the nation’s information infrastructure.”
In addition to the institution being designated as a CAE, the cybersecurity certificate program entitled Information Security and Cyber Defense has been validated by the National Security Agency.
“The National Cyber Strategy, September 2018, addresses the critical shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills and highlights the importance of higher education as a solution to defending America’s cyberspace” according to Leuschner in the NSA designation letter.
The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program aims to create and manage a collaborative cybersecurity educational program with community colleges, colleges, and universities that establishes standards for cybersecurity curriculum and academic excellence; includes competency development among students and faculty, values community outreach and leadership in professional development; integrates cybersecurity practice within the institution across academic disciplines; and actively engages in solutions to challenges facing cybersecurity education.
The designation is the byproduct of the hard work by Skip Berry, associate professor in the College’s Cybersecurity program. Letters have been provided to Congress, sub-committees and the governor’s office notifying them of the College’s designation. It is worth noting that Riverside City College is the only two-year institution in the region to receive this designation and just one of seven in the state of California.
“A highly skilled cybersecurity workforce is a strategic national security advantage,” Leuschner said in notifying Berry of the College’s designation. “The United States government will continue to invest in and enhance programs that build the domestic talent pipeline, from primary through postsecondary education.”
In a presentation to the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees in October, Berry discussed the process of obtaining this designation from securing the College’s commitment for the program, to evidence of a sound cybersecurity posture and plan, to the College establishing a center for cybersecurity at the institution.
“This has taken many years to get everything in place, so we are aligned with the NCAE-CD requirements,” Berry said. “This isn’t just an at-a-boy (moment). There are 10 categories with specific criteria the institution had to meet and justify.”
The need for cybersecurity experts is vast. Currently, 714,548 positions are unfilled in the US and up to three million globally, despite a starting salary of $104,000, according to Cyber Seek. Currently, the College offers a certificate and an A.S. degree in Cybersecurity and is in the process of obtaining the NSA validation for the degree. The College teaches cybersecurity as a component in several areas, from accounting to administration of justice.
“Cybersecurity touches a number of disciplines,” Berry told the Board. “Cybersecurity impacts everything we do. Right now, there is a national security issue because there aren’t enough individuals to meet today’s demands.”
Riverside City College’s program has 300 students enrolled in the program across multiple sections. The program, which has articulation agreements with four-year institutions as well as K-12 partners, is part of the state registered apprenticeship program and has 18 students active in either an internship or apprenticeship.
Former student Shaun Collins shared with the Board his path through the program.
“I came to RCC because I wanted a better career and ultimately a better life,” said Collins, who was working in a warehouse at the time he decided to enroll at the College. “I knew I had a passion in cybersecurity.”
Currently, he works for UCLA Health where he mitigates security risks.
“I have a job that has great meaning to me and is very fulfilling,” he said. “I will be forever grateful for the program at RCC as well as the effort that Professor Berry has put into the program.”