UA Little Rock Will Offer Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity Education Through National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy

Photo by Ben Krain/University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Philip Huff, assistant professor of cybersecurity, and Sandra Leiterman, managing director of the Cyber Arena, teach the cybersecurity program at UA Little Rock.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received a $750,000 grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, located within the National Security Agency, and will be one of the first universities in the country to offer a graduate certificate in cybersecurity education through the National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy.

The National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy is a collaborative of 10 institutions in nine states that will offer the first credentialing program for high school cybersecurity education in the country. The inaugural program will prepare 90 high school teachers to teach an advanced cybersecurity course.

“Providing these educational resources to our partners at the secondary level strengthens our fight against cyber crime while attracting more students into a reliable and exciting career pipeline,” said Chancellor Christina Drale. “The demand for cybersecurity professionals shows no sign of slowing down as more businesses become increasingly dependent on technology.” 

Teachers who are accepted into the National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy will receive funding covering tuition for the 12-credit hour virtual graduate certificate. Teachers who complete the academy will also have the option to complete six additional credit hours that will certify them to teach dual/concurrent enrollment cybersecurity courses.

The National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy is an excellent fit with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s and the Arkansas Department of Education’s efforts to make K-12 computer science education a priority.

“With the increasingly complex cyberthreats our nation has endured and will continue to face, it is the responsibility of our state and schools to produce students prepared to defend our systems against those threats,” said Anthony Owen, state director of computer science education at the Arkansas Department of Education. “UA Little Rock has remained a great partner to the Arkansas Computer Science and Computing Initiative since it was started by Governor Hutchinson in 2015. The announcement of the UA Little Rock team seeking out and being awarded a federal grant which will provide cybersecurity training to Arkansas high school teachers is another example of their continued and innovative commitment to the initiative, our educators, and students of Arkansas.”

UA Little Rock is one of only three universities in the country who will offer the National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy, along with the University of Louisville and DePaul University. Each university has a regional college and community college partner who will help with curriculum development and teacher recruitment. UA Little Rock’s partners are California State University, Sacramento and Estrella Mountain Community College. 

“This is a great opportunity for high school teachers,” said Philip Huff, assistant professor of cybersecurity at UA Little Rock. “They will get experience in a new subject where expert knowledge is required. Teachers who complete the academy will come back with real-world experience in teaching cybersecurity classes, an in-depth understanding of cybersecurity, and great materials for their future courses. The program will help teachers provide students with opportunities in one of the fastest growing careers in the country.”

The academy’s partner institutions will also work with DARK Enterprises, a nonprofit that specializes in cybersecurity education at the secondary education level. The coalition will provide opportunities to build pathways toward dual/concurrent enrollment and 2+2 programs with high schools.

The graduate certificate program is grounded in the High School Cybersecurity Curriculum Guidelines, the development of which was pioneered by DARK Enterprises and the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation. This will move high school cybersecurity education toward a more standardized body of knowledge to build courses and pathways. 

The first cohort of the National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy will begin with an Introduction to Cybersecurity Education course in the spring 2022 semester followed by six credit hours during summer 2022. In their second summer, teachers will study the working environment for cybersecurity professionals and complete a practicum with local industry partners to gain real-world experience.

Cybersecurity remains one of the most in-demand careers in the country. This new graduate certificate will help fill the gap for cybersecurity professionals in the state.

“Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field, in which the need for qualified employees is far outpacing the number of available candidates,” said Sandra Leiterman, managing director of the Cyber Arena. “One way to address this shortage is by increasing awareness and interest in cybersecurity by providing high school students with the fundamental knowledge they need in order to pursue a career in cybersecurity. The National Cybersecurity Teaching Academy will help to bridge the gap between the job demand and the size of the workforce needed to fill the vacancies.” 

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