NSF Grant Boosts Cyber Security Studies

NSF Grant Boosts Cyber Security Studies
Interim chair of the CIS department Dan Manson with student Steve Ramos.

A $600,000 cyber security grant awarded to Cal Poly Pomona and a consortium of colleges could bolster the Southern California education system and workforce for years to come.

The universities and colleges participating in the grant aim to produce more graduates who specialize in cyber security, also known as information assurance.  

The two-year, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will allow educators to enhance their curriculum, encourage students to study information assurance and promote cyber security studies to other colleges and universities in the state. The consortium plans to apply for a one-year extension that could boost the total grant amount to $900,000.

Not only has the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deemed this career path important for the country but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that five of the 20 fastest growing jobs between 2004 and 2014 will be in computing disciplines, including information assurance. Cal Poly Pomona graduates who have studied information assurance are working for law enforcement and district attorney's offices as well as private organizations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young.

The university is one of the most prepared institutions in the region to implement the NSF grant.

“Cal Poly Pomona is currently the only institution in Southern California that has been named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” said Dan Manson, interim chair of the Computer Information Systems department. “This grant supports our desire to continue our leadership in this critical area.”

Other grant recipients include Mt. San Antonio College, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Northridge and Long Beach City College. The NSF award is a renewal of a 2003 grant given to Cal Poly Pomona and Mt. SAC. The initial grant helped Cal Poly Pomona create a computer forensics lab and offer three additional courses in information assurance and security, said Manson who will oversee the university's allotment of grant money.

Cal Poly Pomona will continue to spearhead the consortium's effort to encourage other universities and colleges to adopt information assurance programs. Manson and members of the CIS department were instrumental in helping Cal State Sacramento become a National Center of Academic Excellence. They also have motivated Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Chico to map out a program in information assurance.

Manson said he is thankful the grant will allow him to help more universities and colleges.

“Information assurance education is not a zero sum game,” Manson said. “The more we help others the better we become.”

Cal Poly Pomona also will use some of the funds to become the only university in the Western United States to host a regional competition of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The event tests students knowledge on how to manage and protect a commercial network infrastructure.