Northern Michigan University is the first Upper Peninsula institution to be designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), a program jointly sponsored by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
The goal of the CAE-CDE program is two-fold: to reduce vulnerability in the nation's information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense; and to produce a growing number of professionals with expertise in the discipline, contributing to the advancement of state-of-the-art cyber defense knowledge and practice.
NMU offers four options for students seeking education in information assurance and cyber defense. These range from an academic minor and certificate to associate and bachelor's degrees.
Achieving the CAE-CDE designation was one of the first goals Professor Jim Marquardson identified when he joined the NMU faculty in fall 2015, shortly before the program generated its first graduate. He said it took years of preparation to be in a position to apply, followed by an intensive, nearly two-year application process.
“This will enable us to offer new opportunities to Northern students, whether that's through increased collaboration with industry partners, enhanced internships available only to students from CAE-CDE institutions, or having them help us plan and run summer youth camps. One of the requirements of achieving this status is that we give students a certificate upon graduation that says their degree was approved by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. That's something they can definitely use to their advantage with prospective employers.
“At an institutional level, being a CAE-CDE opens up opportunities for grants to support cyber education. And there's an element of prestige to have NMU advertised on the National Security Agency's map of designated programs.”
Aside from demonstrating that NMU has a quality cybersecurity program that leads to successful careers after graduation, Marquardson said community outreach is one of the other qualifying requirements for the CAE-CDE distinction. Prior to the pandemic, the Student Cybersecurity Association participated in a technology drop-in program at Peter White Public Library, during which members answer questions from patrons about the use of personal devices. They also plan to talk about cybersecurity at senior living centers when conditions allow.
NMU would not have achieved the designation without the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute located on campus.
“That was a necessary component because it shows we are focusing not only on the classroom, but extending the reach into the community,” Marquardson said. “[UPCI Director] Doug Miller has championed community outreach and working with industry stakeholders. We had close to 300 high school students on campus recently doing cybersecurity exercises; that was all Doug. He's also done a great job establishing internships and placing students. Being able to submit that evidence with our application made a difference.”
The CAE-CDE designation is awarded to regionally accredited academic institutions offering cybersecurity degrees and/or certificates from the associate to graduate levels. To learn more about related NMU program options within the College of Business, visit https://nmu.edu/business/cyberdefense. For more on the U.P. Cybersecurity Institute on campus, visit https://nmu.edu/upcyber/.