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Enhancing students’ educational pathways in cybersecurity

Augusta University has a history of creating strategic pathways for students aspiring to earn a bachelor’s degree in fields of study with good employment opportunities.

In fact, as of fall of 2023, one-third of students at Augusta University transferred in from other institutions, including Augusta Technical College (ATC). Since 2015, AU has partnered with ATC on multiple pathway programs, including Augusta Advantage and an associate-to-bachelor’s degree pathway.

In order to expand pathway opportunities across Georgia’s technical colleges, AU’s School of Computer and Cyber Sciences recently hosted all 22 institutions from the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) for the Cyber Workforce and Education Pathway Workshop at the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center. The attendees included AU leadership, TCSG leadership, representatives from the National Security Agency, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C), ATC and several regional employers.

“The School of Computer and Cyber Sciences enjoyed hosting our Georgia technical education partners. The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the growth of our computing, cybersecurity and engineering programs that fulfil distinct workforce needs in Georgia and nationally,” said Alexander Schwarzmann, PhD, dean of SCCS. “We are proud of our growing momentum as we continue to enhance students’ educational pathways in cybersecurity, and we are determined to be an education leader in the fields of computing and cybersecurity.”

AU President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, and ATC President Jermaine Whirl, PhD, welcomed the attendees and outlined the roadmap for discussions with TCSG colleges to strengthen the United States’ cybersecurity workforce.

Keel and Whirl each recognized the impact the current partnerships between the two institutions have had on students, industry and the city of Augusta, and both remarked how pathways to earning a bachelor’s degree after earning an associate degree sets students up for future success. This is amplified by the fact that AU was recently ranked in the top 5% in economic mobility among all U.S. higher education institutions, and that the greater Augusta area is emerging as a hub for technological innovation in the cyber sector.

“Since fall of 2021, we have seen an influx of students transferring from 85 different two-year and four-year institutions nationally. Many of these students have won prestigious scholarships and have emerged as vibrant leaders in the student community. We are designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and becoming a cybersecurity destination institution for aspiring cybersecurity students,” said Gursimran Walia, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs in SCCS.

Schwarzmann and Walia presented on a new transfer agreement that would help students go from earning an associate degree to earning a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, while Michael Nowatkowski, PhD, director of the AU Cyber Institute, highlighted the range of cybersecurity scholarship opportunities available to transfer students at AU.

“Augusta University leverages unparalleled resources in the region, including the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, along with the strategic partnerships at Fort Eisenhower, Department of Defense bases and partners in the Central Savannah River Area,” said Nowatkowski.

The distinguished speakers at the workshop included Lynne Clark, chief of the NSA/DHS National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense program office, and Yair Levy, PhD, director of the Center for Information Protection, Education, and Research at Nova Southeastern University. Clark and Levy each discussed national programs that help students prepare for careers in cybersecurity and how technical institutions can join those programs.

Four women and two men sit in chairs at the front of a large meeting space and talk to a group of people.
Wennie Squires, cyber career success coordinator; Eliseo Jimenez with Scientific Research Corporation; Kimberly Norville, PhD, career consultant for AU’s School of Computer and Cyber Sciences; Valarie Preddy with Savannah River National Laboratory; Sara Lue with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; and Rodd Arthur, director of AU’s Security Operations Center, take part in a panel discussion. [Milledge Austin/Augusta University]

The day-long workshop included a panel of regional employer representatives from Savannah River National Laboratory, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Scientific Research Corporation and AU Security Operational Center, as well as a session led by Walia and Nowatkowski for TCSG leaders to learn more about the cybersecurity transfer pathways, cybersecurity curriculum and internship opportunities at AU.

The day concluded with remarks from Kathryn R. Hornsby, PhD, assistant commissioner of the TCSG System Office, who recognized the importance of the workshop and the new pathway and encouraged TCSG institutions to be involved in the cyber workforce development initiative.

“The strategic development of the cybersecurity transfer pathway creates new opportunities for students from all Technical College System of Georgia institutions. Students are now able to transition smoothly from a two-year program to a four-year program in cybersecurity,” said Schwarzman. “The continued collaboration between Augusta University and the Technical College System of Georgia institutions will be momentous in addressing the cybersecurity workforce challenges in Georgia and our nation for years to come.”

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Written by
Milledge Austin

Milledge Austin is a senior communications and marketing strategist for Communications and Marketing at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at miaustin@augusta.edu.

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man with glasses standing in front of blue background Written by Milledge Austin

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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