BY: AMANDA ALLER
County College of Morris received recognition from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security for its cyber security program.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, CCM was designated as a Center for Academic Excellence by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security.
CCM is the only community college in the state of New Jersey and the 41st in the country, to have achieved this designation, according to the National Initiative for Education and Training Program.
Patricia Tamburelli, full time professor in the information technology department, has been building the cyber security curriculum at CCM since the early 2000s, after she and her husband founded an organization for cybersecurity education called Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education, or CISSE.
Tamburelli said she used the knowledge gained there to develop courses that met the federal standard which at the time was called 4011, a training standard which sets a minimum qualification standard for information security professionals in the country.
Being the only two year school in New Jersey that had a cyber security curriculum mapped to the federal standard, CCM became a certifying institution for the NSA in 2003.
“We were required to teach knowledge units which are basically an updated version of the 4011,” Tamburelli said. “These knowledge units are areas of study, within cyber security, that include a whole list of specifics that we have to teach.”
The requirements to become a Center for Academic Excellence were a long time coming.
“We had to prove that we’ve met this criteria in the past, not that we’re just doing it now,” Tamburelli said. “I had to make sure our Information systems department has our systems secure and that we have the right policies and procedures in place to secure our whole school network.”
The specific criteria the cyber security education department had to meet included proving that that the faculty who teach cyber security have some type of certification or recognition in their field, providing numbers on how many students were taught in the past three years, competing in cyber defense competitions and maintaining an official center for cyber security, with a website that correlates and shows what the department is continuously doing.
“The outreach activities that Professor Tamburelli and her students got involved in are things like hosting national cyber security awareness month in October, data privacy day in January, outreach presentations to the county, and they just recently came back from the board of county freeholders and did a presentation there,” said Professor Nancy Binowski, chair of information technologies. “So the idea is to get the citizenry educated on how to remain cyber safe.”
The cyber security department will have to resubmit again and show everything they have done from 2017 to 2022 in order to still be designated.
“Once something like this is achieved, almost every school will re designate, because the initial time is the hard time,” Tamburelli said. “To become a center for academic excellence, means the whole school has to be committed to cyber security education and excellence. It’s a college wide initiative.”
Cybersecurity students at CCM are now eligible to apply for scholarships like the Scholarship for Service which is awarded by the National Science Foundation.
“If they pay for you for two years then you have to commit to two years of service when you graduate from that school, meaning you have to work for a government agency,” Tamburelli said. “Local, out of state, you get to pick where you work and it is a paid position.”
While the opportunities are available right now only to students in the program, Tamburelli discourages students from writing it off due simply to inexperience.
“Even if you have no technology experience I still say come in,” Tamburelli said. “The courses build. From week one to week 16 you’ll certainly be a lot more adept with technology. It doesn’t make a difference what your experience is or what your background is. Cybersecurity is for everybody. And everyone is capable of becoming a cybersecurity specialist.”