July 24, 2015

NSA grant funds cybersecurity scholarships

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A National Security Agency grant will provide funds for students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and seven regional community colleges to prepare for careers in cybersecurity. 

Fourteen students will each receive $1,000 scholarships from a newly created Southern Illinois Collegiate Cyber Co-op, which includes SIU’s School of Information and Applied Technologies and the community colleges. Students from the institutions will compete for the one-time scholarships to be awarded this fall.

“We know there is a national shortage in qualified information assurance and security personnel. This funding from the National Security Agency will help ISAT create an incentive for students to study cybersecurity and pursue that career field,” Tom Imboden, associate professor in the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies, said. “Through the establishment of the Southern Illinois Collegiate Cyber Co-op, we will be able to support students at our regional partner colleges and to encourage them to further their education at SIU.”

Imboden said the scholarship program is unique in that it requires applicants to invest time and effort completing a set of 13 security and related exercises to be eligible for scholarship consideration. All of the students who apply will learn entry-level security skills as part of the application process, giving them a start in their studies, Imboden said.

Community colleges involved are: John A. Logan College, Carterville; Kaskaskia College, Centralia; Lake Land College, Mattoon; Rend Lake College, Ina; Shawnee Community College, Ullin; Southeastern Illinois College, Harrisburg, and Southwestern Illinois College, Belleville.

In 2011, the university’s School of Information and Applied Technologies earned the designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education from the Department of Homeland Security and the NSA.

SIU also has nearly a decade of providing cyber security educational opportunities and participating in collegiate cyber defense competitions. The activities include cyber security days and mock competitions.

For more information, contact Imboden at 453-7253 or timboden@siu.edu.