UNCW Selected for Pilot to Recruit Future Cybersecurity Professionals

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

UNCW was selected as one of 10 universities to participate in a pilot that has the potential to onboard future cybersecurity professionals.
UNCW will receive funding to implement CyberStart, a program that helps identify, select, train and provide cybersecurity experience to students across the country. CyberStart was developed by the SANS Institute, a global leader in cybersecurity training and certification. The pilot is funded by the National Science Foundation.
“This program gives us a unique opportunity to recruit from not only the traditional technology focuses but also from non-traditional paths,” said William Wetherill, director of Information Security at UNCW. “I think we will find, and we are already seeing some evidence, that the program will generate interest from a much more diverse population due to its gamified training and ease of entry.”
Using a game platform, players are challenged to solve puzzles of increasing difficulty and learn cybersecurity principles along the way. Students that demonstrate high problem-solving capabilities are given access to another tool, “CyberStart Essentials,” which provides advanced training on cybersecurity topics, said Wetherill. Top performers will get an opportunity to interview for a two-year apprenticeship program with UNCW Information Security team.
The UNCW pilot is a collaboration between UNCW’s Information Technology Systems and Center for Cyber Defense Education, led by Ulku Clark, the center’s director and a professor of management information systems in Cameron School of Business.
In April 2018, UNCW launched its Center for Cyber Defense Education. The university is recognized as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, a designation given by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security, and offers a Cyber Defense Education curriculum path. 
The cybersecurity pilot also includes American University, Syracuse University, University of Delaware, Indiana University, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Tennessee Tech, University of Houston and Campbell University. Results from the pilot will be disseminated to other schools across the country.
“Selection criteria focused on student outreach and this selection is a great validation of the existing work we already do with students through our employee, intern, and shadowing programs,” said Wetherill.  “It is an honor to be noticed, considering the caliber of schools within the peer group.”  
- Venita Jenkins