STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University and East Mississippi Community College are working together to prepare students for public service careers in cybersecurity.
MSU will receive $3.11 million through a National Science Foundation grant to continue the university’s role in the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, which prepares highly-qualified cybersecurity professionals for entry into the government workforce. As part of the grant, which will support the program for four years, East Mississippi Community College students planning to attend MSU are eligible to receive scholarships and support.
“Cybersecurity is an increasingly important component of our national security. Mississippi State has established itself by preparing students to be well-trained cybersecurity professionals,” U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said in a release announcing the funding. “I am pleased the university has secured funding to continue this program.”
Scholars must be U.S. citizens eligible for federal service, and they must serve the government one year for every year of scholarship after graduation. The competitive scholarship pays all tuition and fees, as well as a stipend of $22,500-$34,000 for each nine-month academic year. MSU will award 24 scholarships, four of which will be awarded to students at EMCC. Scholarship recipients at EMCC will receive one year of scholarship support in the program and two years at Mississippi State after they graduate from EMCC.
“Mississippi State is a national leader in training top cybersecurity professionals, many of whom are on the front lines today fighting wide-ranging cyber threats in the private and public sectors, including very significant challenges to our national security,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “This grant will enable MSU, in partnership with EMCC, to further strengthen these important efforts.”
“These dollars will open doors for many outstanding students to seek education and employment in the expanding and vitally important field of cybersecurity,” EMCC President Thomas M. Huebner said. “We could not be more pleased than to partner with MSU and believe it will pay dividends for our students, the industries we serve, and the state of Mississippi.”
MSU produces the third largest number of CyberCorps students nationally. In addition to ensuring the government has a well-trained cybersecurity workforce, the program enhances research and knowledge in the field. More than 70 peer-reviewed publications have been published by graduate and undergraduate MSU Scholarship for Service students.
In addition to EMCC, MSU has collaborated with several universities, two-year colleges and law enforcement agencies on cybersecurity initiatives. Students in the Scholarship for Service program are selected from several fields of study, including computer science, software engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, as well as management information systems. Scholarship for Service students in Mississippi help with cybersecurity product evaluation, give internet safety talks with secondary school systems and help with GenCyber summer camps.
Drew Hamilton, director of MSU’s Center for Cyber Innovation, is the principal investigator for the CyberCorps grant. He also has been elected as the national principal investigator representative to the Interagency Coordination Council that funds the NSF Scholarship for Service program. MSU Assistant Clinical Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Sarah Lee is the co-principal investigator. Brandon Sesser, an EMCC instructor in information systems technology, is senior personnel for the grant. Program administrators expect to begin awarding scholarships for the new program in the spring of 2018.
For approximately 20 years, MSU has worked to grow its leading cybersecurity research and education programs. The university is certified as a Center of Academic Excellence in both Information Assurance Education and Research, as well as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. MSU is the only university in the state with all three designations and is one of 16 schools in the nation with the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations designation.