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Cybersecurity Program continues ascent

New partnership powers world-class on-campus training facility and student internship program to meet urgent demand for cyber professionals.

By Dan Vaccaro

August 11, 2021

Close up of hands on the keyboard of a laptop computer.Where will companies turn to find professionals for a half-million unfilled cybersecurity jobs?

Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The University’s Cybersecurity Program continued its upward trajectory this month, launching several new initiatives aimed at preparing students for success in the high-growth field.

The program is partnering with international cybersecurity provider Atos on a Security Operations Center that will be based in MSU Denver’s Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building. As part of the relationship, the company this fall will initially employ seven paid student interns in the SOC environment, where they will learn how to monitor networks in real time for the company’s clients. 

“What we recognized in building out our program is that while a four-year degree gives students a good general cybersecurity education, we needed more experiential learning opportunities,” said Richard Mac Namee, director of the University’s Cybersecurity Center. “This internship program gives students real-world experience with a major multinational company – and they get paid to do it.”

The Atos Security Operations Center will open in August, less than a year after exploratory conversations last fall. The fourth-floor space can accommodate 30 people, which should allow the internship program to expand quickly. Cybersecurity students in their final two years who are selected as interns will work side-by-side with Atos professionals. Interns can work up to 28 hours a week in what will be a 24/7 operation.

Klaus Streicher, a May 2021 Cybersecurity graduate and senior cyber-range instructor, will manage the Atos SOC Intern Program. He said the program will help students access a field not flush with entry-level jobs.

“Students will have a clear pathway to break into the industry,” he said. “Working within these real environments will give our graduates a strong advantage with employers.”

Mac Namee said Atos chose to work with MSU Denver because of its unique student population, many of whom are older, first-generation and have work experience. “Our students’ appetite and desire to succeed is just different,” he said.  

The company also likes Denver for its central location and established tech sector, he said.

The SOC will open its doors at the start of the fall semester with a launch demo event, in which a group of students will defend the network in front of a live audience.

The long-term goal with Atos, Mac Namee noted, is to develop a formal certificate that interns receive at the end of the program. Certifications are highly valued in the cybersecurity industry.

To that end, the Cybersecurity program is also working with the Computing Technology Industry Association to offer multiple professional certifications to its 250 students starting this fall.

Mac Namee said the combination of these initiatives will allow students to graduate with a great degree, professional certifications validated by a respected source, work experience in the SOC and hands-on skills-testing in the cyber range.

All of these initiatives fall under the newly named Cybersecurity Multi-Use Training Environment or C-MUTE – a fully immersive educational experience that prepares graduates to be top job candidates.   

To take the Cybersecurity program to even greater heights, Mac Namee and Streicher hope the program can become a National Security Agency Center for Academic Excellence. The Cybersecurity team recently submitted its application. Mac Namee said the multistep process is not easy but that the validation from a national organization would be a boon for students, helping with professional relationships nationwide and opening opportunities for federal funding. If all goes according to plan, the program would receive designation in January. 

Topics: Cybersecurity, Excellence, Technology

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