“National Center of Academic Excellence” in Cyber Defense Education

National accreditation comes after more than two years of rigorous review process

Virginia Western Community College has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Beginning in December, students who graduate with a career studies certificate in Information Technology: Cyber Security will earn the CAE-CDE designation on their transcripts and receive the educational and employment benefits that come with it.

“Cybersecurity professionals are in incredible demand nationally and across the Commonwealth of Virginia, where our government is increasingly reliant on a strong cyber-defense,” said B Bagby, assistant professor of IT. “This designation is an important way to show employers that our students have received the rigorous education and hands-on training that will allow them to adapt to and defend against ever-changing threats.”

Bagby accepted the CAE-CDE designation on behalf of Virginia Western at a national cybersecurity conference on Nov. 20 in Phoenix. The college became one of only eight community colleges in Virginia to have earned the designation. There are 11 four-year universities in Virginia with the designation.

By 2021, cyber crime is expected to more than triple the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs, which should reach 3.5 million. Locally, with strong healthcare and banking industries, protecting patient and financial records is a major priority. Jobs such as network analyst, security analyst and security architect are in high-demand.

“Education related to cybersecurity has become a point of emphasis across Virginia in recent years,” said Amy White, Virginia Western’s Dean of STEM. “We have heard from our industry partners in the Roanoke Region that they need a strong IT workforce to protect their assets and our community. Our IT program has been leading the way and will continue to do so thanks to this national designation.”

As a part of the CAE-CDE designation, Virginia Western faculty will sit on the Executive Committee for the Virginia Cyber Range, an initiative to enhance cybersecurity education in the Commonwealth’s high schools, college and universities. It allows students to hone their cybersecurity skills in an immersive, hands-on virtual environment.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to test out the skills they have been developing in an environment that mimics the real world, but is safe from actual threats,” Bagby said. “It’s one more tool we can deploy to help our students become proficient at cybersecurity.”

To earn the CAE-CDE designation, Virginia Western demonstrated its robust degree programs and close alignment to specific cybersecurity-related knowledge units. Top subject matter experts in the field validated the programs and evaluated three years of graduating classes.

Virginia Western’s IT program offers two Associate of Science degrees and three Associate of Applied Science degrees. Cybersecurity is one of six career studies certificates that can be paired with an Associate’s Degree or earned separately. IT classes are offered both on-campus and online, and fast-track certifications are also available.

In support of the growing need for flexible learning spaces in cyber security, information technology and computer science, Virginia Western will be opening a new cyber security lab and a new networking classroom for spring semester. The facility includes advanced instructional tools, a computer lab and additional, informal workspace for students to use for group study, computer and IT hardware learning.

Virginia Western’s Spring Semester begins on Jan. 20, 2020. To learn more about IT offerings and how to enroll, visit: www.virginiawestern.edu/academics/infotech.php.