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Cybersecurity Major Meeting Demands in the Workplace

The university is offering an exciting new major, a bachelor of science in cybersecurity.  Planning for the major has been a team effort between the computer science and criminal justice departments with support from the CSU Industry Advisory Board.

Cyber crime and cyber warfare have become widespread issues with tremendous financial consequences. Developing resources to combat these attacks is more important than ever.  CSU cybersecurity majors will receive foundational training to enter a career in cybersecurity.

Classes are scheduled to begin in the fall. However, currently enrolled CSU students were able to begin taking courses this spring.

Support for the major from industry leaders is strong. Todd Lant, vice president of information technology at Blackbaud, said, “I am encouraged to see focus placed on developing industry-prepared, qualified graduates in the area of cybersecurity.  As a technology innovator, security is a key differentiator for Blackbaud.  Our customers trust us to provide secure solutions for them as well as ourselves. This degree program is an important step in developing critical talent to support the growth of competitive businesses in our region.”

The major incorporates core computer science courses, including network security, computer architecture, and operating systems with additional specific coursework in Network Penetration, Ethical Hacking and Cyber Defense. These courses will be complemented by criminal justice and mathematics coursework. A senior project will be required and will focus on cybersecurity with particular emphasis on risk assessment and mitigation.

Dr. Valerie Sessions, associate professor of computer science and chair of the department, has seen a positive response from both students and the department’s industry advisory board. “The highly technical nature of the coursework will prepare a student to assess and combat cybersecurity threats. In addition the excellent criminal justice coursework will prepare students to establish a chain of evidence as they track a security breach.”

Students graduating with a cybersecurity degree, with the added bonus of liberal arts courses that foster communication and teamwork skills, will be prepared to seek government careers as well as jobs in the private sector. A recent Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce survey estimates 243 IT security analyst openings in our region alone over the next 10 years. This same report shows that a mere 16 percent of the job needs are currently filled by local graduates.

Nationally the job shortage is even greater. “Cybersecurity is an area of significant focus at PepsiCo – we are committed to keeping our customer, supplier, and internal data safe,” said Jody Davids, senior vice president and chief information officer for PepsiCo. “I applaud this new major at CSU. It is a visionary move, and I know the graduates of this program will be in high demand.”

The computer science department currently offers an applied technology minor with an emphasis in cybersecurity and hosts a cybersecurity club which competes in both local and national competitions. Palmetto Roost, the local chapter of the AOC, an international professional association advocating for a strong defense capability, supports the cybersecurity club.

“CSU’s integration of cyber security and criminal justice programs is an insightful and exciting response for future needs of our commercial industry, government and our military,” said Rich Nelson, president of Palmetto Roost Chapter.

As more large companies and small-to-medium businesses make Charleston their home, there will be an increased need for information security specialists. For more information on CSU’s bachelor of science in cybersecurity, contact Dr. Sessions at 843-863-7529 or email her at vsessions@csuniv.edu.

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Photo: Jody Davids, senior vice president and chief information officer for PepsiCo, recently visited campus and spoke to computer science students. Photo by Richard Esposito

CSU Magazine is the official publication for alumni and friends of Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. For more information about the university, visit us online at CharlestonSouthern.edu.