Keeping computers and information systems secure is a major challenge. Business, industry, and government need well-prepared technicians who can prevent, detect, and investigate cybersecurity breaches. The growth of cyber-threats has created a need for many additional workers who have the necessary cybersecurity knowledge and skills. This project aims to help address this need by promoting students' movement along a cybersecurity career pathway from credit-bearing certificates to baccalaureate degrees. The work will involve three major tasks. First, the project team will collaborate with industry professionals to define cybersecurity workforce needs. Cybersecurity students will have opportunities to interact with industry professionals to learn what is required in real-world work environments. Second, the project will use virtual, cloud-based classroom and lab environments, with state-of-the-art videoconferencing technology, to deliver courses and laboratory experiences to students at the college's rural campuses in Belle Glade and Loxahatchee Groves. This approach will relieve students of having to travel long distances to attend classes and will mitigate the problem of finding qualified instructors for physical classes at the remote locations. Third, project activities will be designed to serve all students, targeting rural students, women, and students from groups that are underrepresented in cybersecurity. These populations offer talent that must be tapped to meet the region's and the nation's needs for maintaining a cybersecure infrastructure.

The project will generate new knowledge about cybersecurity education by testing the following hypothesis: Creating an inclusive cybersecurity community that includes student learning communities and cybersecurity professionals as mentors will enhance progress of students along a cybersecurity career pathway. Project activities include (1) creating a learning community to promote student engagement, (2) conducting specialized outreach activities designed to recruit rural students, women, and other populations into cybersecurity, and (3) improving academic instruction in cybersecurity and access to cybersecurity career pathways by delivering educational opportunities for students in rural areas. An objective of the project is to enable at least half of participating students annually to complete at least four courses toward a Network Support Technician College Credit Certificate or a Network Security College Credit Certificate. The project has the potential to increase the number and diversity of students who are interested in cybersecurity careers, who pursue a pathway toward that goal, and who enter the technician-level cybersecurity workforce in Florida. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program, which focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation's economy.

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.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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R. Hovis
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Palm Beach State College
Lake Worth
United States
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