Jackson State Community College was recertified through 2022 as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education by the U.S. National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
The five-year designation puts Jackson State among an elite group of institutions offering computer information technology courses that meet rigorous federal standards and sets graduating students apart from others, said Dr. Tom Pigg, Dean of Computer Information Technology and Health Sciences. Recognized as leaders in the field, only about 40 community colleges and 200 four-year universities across the country have the designation.
“It’s very important; it’s huge, to say the least,” said Pigg. “The benefit is that, because of the rigors required to get the designation, students will have this recognition that they attended a school that is a National Center of Academic Excellence.”
Graduates often find work protecting national security information systems, commercial networks and critical information infrastructure in both the private and public sectors.
Jackson State was recertified after an application process that requires a six-month campus study to meet the government’s criteria. Most schools that apply do not achieve the designation, and those that do typically undergo a 10-week review that identifies areas that need to be improved. Jackson State was approved in less than a month without the need to change anything in its program.
“It’s a pretty exhaustive self-study-type process,” Pigg said. “This is a re-designation, but there’s been a lot of changes with requirements and how the designation process is conducted.”
The National Security Agency launched the program in 1998 to reduce vulnerabilities to the country’s information infrastructure. Its goals are to promote higher education and research while producing professionals with cyber defense expertise.
The program was expanded to two-year colleges, technical schools and government training centers in 2010, and Jackson State was first designated in 2012. “This is a fairly young designation for community colleges,” Pigg said.
The school’s ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well in the protection of the national information infrastructure, said Karen Leuschner from the National Security Agency. She serves as National Center of Academic Excellence program director.
“Like all nations, the United States has a compelling interest in defending its vital national assets, as well as our core principles and values, and we are committed to defending against those who would attempt to impede our ability to do so.” Leuschner said. “Education is the key to promoting these ideals.”
To earn the designation, schools must develop significant partnerships with businesses and government agencies while offering courses that teach students to be computer information technology and cyber defense professionals. Schools must also provide community service while meeting certain security standards on campus, such as employee training and offering secure business transactions.
While the designation targets Jackson State’s computer information technology program, it impacts all facets of campus. For more information, visit the school’s Cyber Security Center website at www.jscc.edu/cybercenter.
Jackson State Community College provides accessible learning opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals, strengthen the workforce and empower the diverse communities of West Tennessee. The institution offers traditional and contemporary associate degrees, certificates, continuing education and enrichment, and college-readiness programs.