EL PASO, Texas (December 20, 2021) – The University of Texas at El Paso will strengthen regional and national workforce capacity in cybersecurity, thanks to a renewed commitment from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). UTEP’s CyberCorps Service Scholarship Program (SFS), designed to prepare cybersecurity professionals who can improve state security and economic competitiveness, has received a $4 million grant from NSF and DHS.
UTEP’s original SFS program began in 2016 and has produced 30 graduates, all of whom have secured careers in the cybersecurity sector with government agencies.
“This renewal award will support more than 35 graduate students in computer science (CS) and software engineering who will enter the government workforce with the knowledge and skills to transfer modern cybersecurity techniques and methods into practice,” Salama Salameh said. , Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the computer science department at UTEP.
The renewal of the CyberCorps Scholarship Program at UTEP will support highly qualified students, with a focus on Hispanic and female students. Through the original and new SFS program, the Department of Computer Science at UTEP supported 39 students, 39% of whom are female and 85% are Hispanic.
David Reyes, a doctoral candidate in computer science, has been part of the SFS program since its inception.
“It was a great opportunity,” Reyes said. “Before this program, I was an assistant teacher. Therefore, it was sometimes difficult to have to correct exams and keep up with my course work. Now, I can fully focus and devote my time directly to my studies.”
SFS scholars receive full tuition, $6,000 for travel, research materials and supplies, a laptop, books, apprenticeships and certifications, and an annual stipend ($34,000 as graduate students and $25,000 as undergraduates). In return, they commit to serving in a government cybersecurity position for a period of time equal to the number of years the program funds.
“If you are really interested in cybersecurity and want to learn new things and do some interesting work and have a passion for it, then you should definitely apply,” said Reyes, who is scheduled to graduate in December 2022.
“UTEP is uniquely positioned to contribute to efforts to improve diversity in the cybersecurity workforce due to the population it serves, which includes Hispanic, first-generation, and lower-income quartile students,” Salameh said.
Over the past five years, UTEP has made significant progress in developing cybersecurity educational programs, research and outreach activities. These efforts have resulted in several high-profile acknowledgments including designating the National Security Agency as a center of academic excellence in both cyber defense and cyber operations—only one of 21 nationwide—as well as designating an Army research laboratory on its remote southern campus in the field of security. Cyber.
Salameh explained that the central role of software in the operation of defense, energy, communications, transportation, and manufacturing systems increases the importance of designing these systems in a way that integrates cybersecurity principles.
SFS scholars at UTEP participate in rigorous educational programs and supplement knowledge gained in the classroom with significant involvement in cybersecurity research, training, competitions, and hands-on activities. They are also required to engage in community service to build cybersecurity awareness and capabilities among UTEP students and beyond.
The objectives of the UTEP SFS program are:
- Recruit and retain at least 30 students for UTEP’s Master of Science in Software Engineering and PhD programs in Computer Science.
- Graduate students who will join the workforce and have the ability to transfer modern cybersecurity techniques and methods into practice.
- Place students in government positions that use their knowledge and capabilities in the field of cybersecurity, with an emphasis on placing graduates in federal/executive entities.
- Promote awareness of cyber security and competencies among students and teachers from kindergarten to grade 12.
About the University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas at El Paso is the leading American university serving Hispanics. Located in the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two states meet along the Rio Grande River, 94% of our 24,000+ students are minorities, and half are first in their families to attend college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs at America’s only open access top research university.
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