Since being designated in 2017 as the Center of Academic Excellence Cybersecurity Regional Resource Center for the Southeast by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security, the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity has continued to show leadership in the rapidly evolving field.
“We’re one of nine regional hubs across the country, and it really provides the opportunity for us to not only build high-quality programs at UWF but take a leadership role in working with colleges and universities across the Southeast region to advance cybersecurity more broadly,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, director of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity.
UWF serves as the Cybersecurity Regional Resource Center for all colleges and universities in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.
El-Sheikh said in its role as regional hub, UWF helps other institutions of higher learning become Centers of Academic Excellence by providing mentoring and support. UWF also provides professional development to colleges and universities across the Southeast so that faculty stay up to date with the changing field.
“We also want to build a community of expertise across the region so that we can share resources and build innovative solutions utilizing collaborative approaches,” El-Sheikh said.
In July 2018, the UWF Center for Cybersecurity hosted the Southeast Cybersecurity Conference in Orlando, Florida. The two-day conference included professional development sessions in which educators from across the Southeast shared their expertise with other faculty. The conference also provided faculty opportunity to explore collaborative research and grants.
In April 2019, the UWF Center for Cybersecurity will host the NSA/DHS Centers of Academic Excellence Executive Leadership Forum on Pensacola Beach, which is intended for executive leaders across academia, industry and government, including college and university presidents, industry CEOs, chief information officers, corporate information security officers and federal and state government leaders.
“The forum will bring together leaders from across the country to discuss and collaborate on strategies to advance the future of cybersecurity,” El-Sheikh said.
The Center for Cybersecurity also continues to host the UWF Pathways to Cyber Program, which offered two GenCyber combination camps for high school students and teachers in June and July 2018.
Each camp included 24 high-school students and 12 middle- and high-school teachers, who learned about Cybersecurity First Principles through hands-on, interactive activities in the UWF Cybersecurity Battle Lab.
For the past two years, the Pathways to Cyber program has been funded by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation. UWF was the only institution in the state to receive that funding during that period, El-Sheikh said.
“It allows us to take the message of increasing cybersecurity awareness and interest to the youth and helps teachers develop curriculum to implement in their classes while making it all free of cost,” El-Sheikh said. High-achieving students at UWF are recruited as cybersecurity ambassadors and play an important role in sharing their knowledge of cybersecurity with K-12 students and teachers, El-Sheikh said.
“They become peer mentors at the camps, and during the rest of the year, they visit schools and community events and continue the message,” she said.