JSCC Cyber Defense Program Achieves Elite Federal Designation

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.

JSCC’s West volunteers, helps chamber’s leadership programs

Amy West doesn’t want to be selfish with her time; she wants it to matter, and she wants to help future generations.

She immersed herself in the Jackson Chamber’s leadership development programs – Leadership Jackson and Leadership University – after graduating from the latter in 2011. For her efforts, the chamber named her Volunteer of the Year at its 2017 awards banquet in March.

Today, she serves on the Leadership Jackson Alumni Association Board of Directors, as well as the Leadership University Board of Directors, where she serves as chair for 2017 and 2018.

“I really wanted to give back to the community as a result of going through Leadership Jackson myself,” said West, director of human resources for Jackson State Community College. “You really learn things about the community that you would never be aware of. It gave me an appreciation for the history and the culture and all the richness we have in Jackson. You learn about what the community’s needs are, and it gives you an opportunity to plug in and choose where to lend your talents to help.”

Leadership Jackson is the chamber’s adult leadership development program. Since 1979, it has connected more than 1,000 graduates with local opportunities, needs, problems, and resources.

Leadership University is the chamber’s youth leadership development program for high school juniors in Jackson and Madison County. Established in 1999, the program has exposed a younger generation to local opportunities, needs, problems and resources available in the community.

“They go through a leadership experience during the whole academic year,” West said. “They learn a whole lot about the community.”

With both programs, West leads workshops about diversity and gives presentations in class. She is also a certified Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience – COPE – instructor at Camp McMorris in Camden, which hosts both groups for a series of fun, trust-building activities. The camp features ropes courses, as well as opportunities for rappelling and zip-lining.

She has also interviewed applicants and reviewed applications for both programs to help select the classes.

As Jackson State’s director of human resources, West wears many hats. She spearheads the college’s diversity efforts and ensures Title VI and Title IX compliance, which prohibit discrimination based on race and gender. She also handles the day-to-day human resources operations of the school.

She extends her volunteer work to her career, as well.

She is a member of the West Tennessee Society of Human Resources Management, which has more than 65 people from a variety of businesses and organizations seeking to advance the profession. She has been active in the organization, serving as the vice president of membership in 2011; the president-elect in 2012 and 2013; and the president in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The organization produces two conferences a year with 115-120 participants and 20-25 exhibitors. It also manages five or six community outreach efforts each year benefitting local organizations like RIFA, the Jackson-Madison County Humane Society and the Scarlett Rope Project.

Other organizations to which West commits her time include the Salvation Army of Jackson, where she began serving on the board this year.

She joined Jackson State in 2010. She lives in Crockett County and has two daughters. She wants to teach them to have a servant attitude.

“I do it for future generations,” she said. “I really think it’s important to show my daughters that life is not all about us. It’s about giving back to others. We’re all given the same amount of time each day, and I really focus on making my available hours count.”