School of Business offers new cybersecurity specialization

Starting this fall, the SIUE School of Business is offering a new cybersecurity specialization. Through all-new curriculum and partnerships, this program aims to fill large cybersecurity job vacancies in Illinois and around the country. 

Tim Jacks, the undergraduate program director for Computer Management and Information Systems, said the program’s main goal is to get students employed in these high-demand areas. 

“The number one reason [for this program] at the end of the day has got to be jobs, because there’s a lack of cybersecurity talent in the workforce, and that’s for entry-level, mid-level, executive, every level,” Jacks said. “That’s a lot of jobs, and we want our students to get some of those jobs, because it’s a huge growth area.”

Because cybersecurity is a rapidly changing field, the program relies on partnerships with industry insiders to make sure students are being taught the most up-to-date content possible. SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll said the department will be partnering with the cybersecurity program in a number of ways, including getting students internships with other local cybercrime and law enforcement agencies. 

“We have officers that are in the Secret Service for ... the FBI cybercrime unit, and our detectives here that are trained in it, so they’ll be over there speaking with those students that are in those classes,” Schmoll said. “And we can partner with them to get them their internships either with us, the FBI cybercrime unit of Fairview Heights, or the Secret Service cyber unit, and then possibly with the ... Illinois State Police ... And also intern here with our detectives.”

According to CMIS Chair Anne Powell, internships with the SIUE Police Department themselves, while unpaid, provide a critical service for cybersecurity students in need of an internship.

“There is such a need, and cybersecurity internships are very difficult to find, so [students] have jumped at that and the police have been very generous with, ‘Yes, we can provide your students an internship. We can’t pay them, but we can get them the experience,’ and [our students] have been very happy about that, and the police have been very happy with our students,” Powell said.

Students will have several new electives to choose from, according to Jacks, including ethical hacking, or penetration testing, and cybercrime. Jacks said the cybercrime elective covers topics like gathering and processing digital forensic evidence from electronic devices, and the ethical hacking and penetration testing class covers all necessary material for a student to become a Certified Ethical Hacker. 

“It’s very popular,” Jacks said of the ethical hacking class. “We had a lot of discussions about how to offer that material, because our industry partners want students that can think like a hacker. Now, that means we have to teach some hacking tools and techniques, but at the same time, we have to emphasize the ethical use of these tools for good.”

The program’s entry in the 20-21 undergraduate catalog says that cybersecurity students will learn various business-related skills in addition to their cybersecurity training. Timothy Schoenecker, Dean of the School of Business, said this will help students develop more well-rounded skill sets that employers are looking for. 

“They’re going to be a much more effective cybersecurity professional ... if they understand all aspects of the business,” Schoenecker said. “In the discussions I’ve had with industry professionals ... they think it’s really important for [cybersecurity employees] to be able to not just talk about the technical details, but to be able to communicate that in a way that folks in, let’s say, marketing, or accounting or finance can understand.”

The cybersecurity program’s availability has evoked a range of positive responses, according to Jacks. 

“Everybody’s been supportive, from the chancellor’s office to the provost’s office, at a department level, our industry partners ... students are excited about it, and alumni are jealous that they didn’t have an opportunity to do it while they were here,” Jacks said. 

To learn more about the new cybersecurity specialization, read its entry in the 20-21 undergraduate catalog.

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