Federal grant to be used for cybersecurity symposium, scholarships

Defense department grant of $305K to help host panel discussions, hands-on labs
Computer networking and information technology students work in a classroom. UW-Stout has received a U.S. Department of Defense federal grant to be used for a regional cybersecurity symposium and for student scholarships. / UW-Stout photos by Chris Cooper
Pam Powers | November 12, 2019

University of Wisconsin-Stout has received a U.S. Department of Defense federal grant that will be used for a regional cybersecurity symposium and for student scholarships.

The $305,834 grant will allow the university to host a symposium bringing together leaders in business and higher education to strengthen cybersecurity in the upper Midwest. The grant also provides three $35,000 scholarships to UW-Stout students for the 2019-20 academic year.

The Wisconsin and Minnesota College Cybersecurity Symposium, scheduled Thursday, April 23, in the Memorial Student Center, will have a keynote speaker from the National Security Agency, hands-on cloud security labs, panel discussions, student projects demo and fast-pitch presentations from instructors.

Panels will discuss increasing the number of women entering cybersecurity fields and the future of cybersecurity. Students from UW-Stout and two-year colleges will showcase their cybersecurity activities and have demonstrations. Instructors from UW-Stout and two-year colleges will present their ongoing cybersecurity-related teaching activities and explore new ideas. Cloud-based security labs and Capture The Flag will be tested by instructors and students.

“It is the first of its kind symposium in Wisconsin and Minnesota,” said Holly Yuan, director of the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense at UW-Stout. “We want to share ideas about what is going on in cybersecurity and the challenges we’re facing in cybersecurity.”

Holly Yuan, director of the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense at UW-Stout, said the Wisconsin and Minnesota College Cybersecurity Symposium is the first of its kind in the area. Yuan, at right, is working with a computer networking and information technology student in a class.

The demand for cybersecurity workers by 2020 will be 1.8 million people globally, Yuan said. Yet, of cybersecurity employees, less than 11% are women. A women in cybersecurity discussion panel will address the low representation of women in cybersecurity.

“The scope of cybersecurity is so broad. Cybersecurity has a fun work line with a lot of varied opportunities. But women often don’t see cybersecurity as their potential career path because often they feel that the depth of their knowledge and skills is not sufficient, and those who decide to purse the cybersecurity career feel intimidated when they often find out they are the only one in the room,” Yuan said. “We need to stay more confident about the skills we bring to the table.”

The symposium is building off previous UW-Stout cybersecurity workshops for instructors from technical colleges and Minnesota. The goal is for it to become an annual event at UW-Stout.

“We’re building a pipeline of students extending from high school to one to two-year and four-year degrees with industry and cybersecurity professionals to shore up the need for qualified people to meet our nation’s security needs,” said Matt Wysocki, program associate with the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

Three scholarships

Part of the grant also funded major scholarships for UW-Stout students during this academic year. The Cybersecurity Scholarship was awarded to three undergraduates out of four who applied. Each scholarship covers tuition and fees of approximately $10,000 and includes a $25,000 stipend for room, board and other living expenses.

“It is just awesome,” Yuan said, noting nationally about 20% of students who apply for the scholarship receive them. “I think our program is very strong. We keep improving our program.”

For security purposes, the names of the scholarship recipients from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. are not made public.

One UW-Stout student also received the scholarship for the past academic year.

CNIT students

Students from UW-Stout are eligible to apply because in 2017 UW-Stout was named a Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense, the first in the UW System. The designation helps higher education institutions with computer-related programs prepare the U.S. against cybersecurity threats.

Students at Center of Academic Excellence institutions like UW-Stout can receive a national cybersecurity certification by taking 13 required courses as part of their undergraduate degree program.

UW-Stout has a Bachelor of Science program in computer networking and information technology along with many scientific, technical and managerial disciplines related to cybersecurity. They include the bachelor’s and master’s programs in information communication technologies; applied mathematics and computer science; computer science; professional science master’s in industrial and applied mathematics; and computer and electrical engineering.

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Photos

Holly Yuan, director of the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense at UW-Stout, said the Wisconsin and Minnesota College Cybersecurity Symposium is the first of its kind in the area. Yuan, at right, is working with a computer networking and information technology student in a class.

Students, at the symposium on April 23 in UW-Stout’s Memorial Student Center, will showcase their cybersecurity activities and have demonstrations.


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