Mississippi Cyber Initiative hosts statewide cyber faculty retreat

Contact: James Carskadon

Attendees listen to a presentation at The Mill at MSU
The 2023 Mississippi Cyber Faculty Retreat brought together cybersecurity faculty from more than a dozen Mississippi institutions. (Photo by James Carskadon)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The Mississippi Cyber Initiative once again brought together cybersecurity faculty from across the state in an effort to better connect students with the ever-growing career opportunities in the field, particularly in the Magnolia State.

In collaboration with the Mississippi State University Department of Computer Science, Bagley College of Engineering and Office of Research and Economic Development, the second annual Mississippi Cyber Faculty Retreat recently drew faculty from seven community colleges, six colleges and universities and the U.S. Air Force. The event was an opportunity for Mississippi’s cybersecurity faculty to increase collaboration with other institutions and share best practices as they educate the workforce charged with securing cyber operations in an increasingly digital world. It built off the inaugural faculty retreat, hosted last year by the University of Southern Mississippi.

Jim Martin, MSU associate vice president for corporate engagement and economic development and Mississippi Cyber Initiative lead, highlighted the critical importance of cybersecurity to university research and teaching activities, as well as key economic activity. He also noted the significant role educators play in preparing the current and future workforce to adapt to ever-changing cyber threats, as well as the strength of the academic cyber programs housed across the state.

“We should all be very proud of what our institutions are doing,” Martin said. “I was the budget director when I served in the Air Force, but I saw the importance of cybersecurity in everything we did at the Department of Defense. Now, if you look at the priorities for every public agency and across private industry, cybersecurity is right there at the top.”

The retreat included keynote speeches from representatives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Microsoft, as well as an exercise focused on ways to increase awareness of cyber career opportunities in Mississippi for students. Educators also had an opportunity to learn about the Mississippi Cyber Initiative’s Cyber Ecosystem, a platform for cyber training and events that is being utilized by MCI partners in academia and defense.

Led by MSU, MCI was established in 2021 as a result of collaborations between MSU, Keesler Air Force Base, the Mississippi National Guard and the University of Southern Mississippi. Based on the state’s Gulf Coast, the effort has grown to include an extensive network of partners representing defense, state and federal agencies, education and private industry. The MCI collaboration is focused on identifying needs across the state and leveraging strengths within the group to address those needs.

MCI has established initial facilities at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Harrison County Campus focused on digital forensics, training for systems administrators and the cyber ecosystem. Since the Digital Forensics Lab became operational last May, more than 30 law enforcement agencies have used the lab’s capabilities as part of investigations involving digital devices. MCI regularly hosts digital forensics training events for law enforcement partners. The initiative has also hosted K-12 computer science outreach efforts in partnership with MSU and MGCCC.

For more information on the Mississippi Cyber Initiative, visit the initiative’s LinkedIN (Mississippi Cyber Initiative) and Twitter (MS_Cyber_Init) pages or contact Jim Martin, jim.martin@research.msstate.edu.