Thomas Nelson Community College Receives Designation as a National Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense Education

September 18, 2017
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As Cybersecurity continues to grow as a major concern for individuals, businesses, and government agencies, the need to advance cybersecurity counter-measures and strategies are critical; however, the need for professionals in this field is outpacing the pipeline at all levels from local entities to global organizations.

The United States National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have officially designated Thomas Nelson Community College (Thomas Nelson) as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education (CAE2Y).

This designation acknowledges schools that excel in educating students to become leaders in cyber defense and recognizes Thomas Nelson as a national asset in cybersecurity education. Thomas Nelson is the fifth Virginia community college to attain the CAE2Y recognition.

“Gaining this recognition validates the College’s long-term efforts to build a comprehensive Cybersecurity Program that provides a full continuum of offerings to support career pathways for high school students, transitioning military, college transfer students, and industry professionals seeking to advance in the cybersecurity field,” stated Thomas Nelson President, John T. Dever. “We have sought to provide regional leadership through our annual Cybersecurity Conference, our role in arranging cybersecurity internships sponsored by the Business Higher Education Forum, and our participation in the Hampton Roads Cybersecurity Education, Workforce, and Economic Development Alliance (HRCyber). We are pleased that these activities align with and support the Governor’s initiative for a New Virginia Economy.”

NSA developed the Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) designation in 1998, with NSA joining as a partner in 2004, to recognize distinguished cybersecurity programs at 4-year colleges and universities. The CAE2Y designation was created in 2010 to recognize community colleges that have demonstrated excellence in their institutional approach to cybersecurity.

This approach includes excellence in academic programs, IT security policies, broad user awareness, faculty and staff professional development, community outreach, and a three-year history of cybersecurity education resulting in graduates.

Thomas Nelson has offered the Department of Defense and industry accepted Information Technology programs to the Peninsula since 2002, beginning with the Cisco Networking Academy. Since 2017 marked the third anniversary of its comprehensive cybersecurity program, Thomas Nelson formally submitted its application for the CAE2Y designation in June 2017.

Today, the Cybersecurity Program at Thomas Nelson is a notable asset to the Peninsula because of its seamless career pathways from high schools to college and industry.

Thomas Nelson offers two career studies certificates (CSC) in cybersecurity for students requiring only the core cybersecurity classes, Cybersecurity for Local Area Networks (LAN), an entry-level CSC, and Cybersecurity for Enterprises, an advanced CSC. Thomas Nelson also offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Information Systems Technology with a cybersecurity concentration that transfers to Old Dominion's cybersecurity major, offered through the interdisciplinary studies program in the College of Arts and Letters. Thomas Nelson has also offered a Future IT/ Cyber Leadership Internship program though multiple organizations to local students; an effort supported in part by the Office of Naval Research.

Thomas Nelson also offers six short-term, noncredit classes in cybersecurity programs that fit the needs of students currently working in the IT industry.

This fall, Thomas Nelson will partner with Hampton City Schools (HCS) to provide a cybersecurity program through dual enrollment courses for high school juniors and seniors in select locations. Students in this program will have one or more entry-level cybersecurity credentials upon high school graduation and a start on their college education.