ISU receives renewal of grant for cybersecurity

Elizabeth Slaughter

The National Science Foundation awarded more than $2.38 million to Iowa State in a grant renewal to help combat cybersecurity attacks.

The university plans to direct the funds toward educating its students in the Scholarship for Service graduate program, commonly called CyberCorps, said Jan Wiersema, senior lecturer of natural resource ecology and management and co-principal investigator for the grant.

As a leadership development and interdisciplinary graduate program, CyberCorps couples a leadership curriculum with cybersecurity courses to focus on addressing the shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the government.

Wiersema works with Barbara Licklider, university professor of education and another co-principal investigator on the grant, on the two-year interdisciplinary graduate program that began back in 2000.

She expressed the need for students to challenge themselves and their peers in the CyberCorps program to be leaders here at Iowa State and later in their careers in governmental cybersecurity.

“Students in the CyberCorps program challenge and encourage each other to step outside their comfort zones,” Wiersema said.

In offering these unique leadership skills to students, the program not only gives ISU CyberCorps alumni a distinct advantage in the job market but also allows them to best serve and help the public.

A second-year graduate student in the program, Christopher Farrington expressed how the leadership component of the program opened up opportunities for him in the cybersecurity field.

“This program put me out of my comfort zone and has made me a better leader and productive member of the field,” Farrington said.

Iowa State has been offering courses in cybersecurity since 1995 and the rise of the Internet as we know it and now has one of the largest programs in the country. The program sees its students graduate to work with governmental agencies at the local, state and federal levels.

Also a second-year graduate student, Eric Rodine had the opportunity to intern with the FBI this past summer. He said that his internship got his foot in the door in the government and prepared him for the work to come when he graduates in the spring.

Iowa State was actually the first university to offer such a program that provided students with the leadership skills when it began and has since led the initiative for cybersecurity and online safety.

Doug Jacobson, university professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-principal investigator of the grant, further emphasized the need for these students to lead the field. He also said that everybody needs to be educated on online safety — professionals, students and the public alike — which is the ultimate goal of the program.

“Individuals need to take ownership and be literate [about cybersecurity],” Jacobson said.