Securing cyberspace is one of the most significant challenges confronting our society today. This award to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will build on the Illinois Cyber Security Scholars Program (ICSSP). The initial program recruited, prepared, and placed top-notch undergraduate level engineers into the government?s cybersecurity workforce. With this renewal, ICSSP will expand the program further by increasing the diversity of the student scholars, taking advantage of recently expanded curricular offerings, and extending the SFS opportunity to graduate students in the School of Information Sciences. This expanded capability will offer an additional pathway for individuals to enter the federal cybersecurity workforce. Information assurance and cyber defense are high priorities for UIUC, as evidenced by its support of the Information Trust Institute (ITI). The Center for Cyber Defense Education and Research within ITI coordinates educational activities in information assurance across UIUC.
This renewal project will produce 46 more professionals with multidisciplinary exposure to computer security for the government service workforce. They will have the skills and knowledge to address the technical, human, and societal challenges facing the nation's critical infrastructure. The project will improve outreach to underrepresented minorities, 2-year college transfer students, veterans, and first-generation college students, and will thereby increase the candidate pool of SFS scholars, especially those coming from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition, the inclusion of the School of Information Sciences will expand the ICSSP program to a pool of students who are relatively mature and diverse, including many people with prior industry and/or professional experience in a range of disciplines. The ICSSP student's senior research projects, contact with ITI faculty, and internships in government facilities will expose the scholars to an integration of research and education that offers far more than what an undergraduate normally experiences in an ordinary classroom setting. Furthermore, scholars will bring their internship experience back, enriching the classroom experience for other UIUC students, and will participate in outreach efforts to promote cybersecurity-aware behavior and to promote interest in cybersecurity careers.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.