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Cyber security growing field for University of North Georgia
Bryson Payne
Bryson Payne

Because cyber security is a growing concern for the country’s defense and for private business, the University of North Georgia is emphasizing its courses in the field and planning for more programs. The Center for Cyber Operations was formed in January.

Bryson Payne, director of the new center, said the university is focusing on cyber security as a critical priority for the U.S and a regular problem for U.S. companies.

He noted that cadets at UNG who are trained in cyber security would have advantages in working with the National Security Agency and at military installations. Fort Gordon in Augusta is the site of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence.

Payne also said about 150 security-related companies are in Georgia and about 8,000 jobs in the area are available in Georgia. Nationally, about 290,000 jobs are available in cyber security, he said.

“Just about every company needs cyber security,” Payne said. “We’re trying to develop that pipeline.”

UNG has had a bachelor’s degree program in computer science for more than 12 years and added a concentration in security in 2004. The university also is one of six senior military colleges in the U.S.

Beginning in 2013, the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems added the information assurance and security minor, and, jointly with the Department of Criminal Justice, a minor in cyber security.

“We need to bring all those things together,” Payne said.

Part of that effort will be seeking a designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. That would come from the NSA and Department of Homeland Security. Payne said the college expects to hear about that in June.

That designation could lead to projects with those departments and internships for students.

The university has four cyber courses, and two are offered each semester – at least one online. Classes are at the Dahlonega campus.

“Over the next couple of years, we want to expand that significantly,” Payne said. The long-range goal is to have undergraduate and graduate programs plus professional certifications.

The university has 35 graduates with all four courses in the cyber security field, Payne said. UNG hopes to dramatically expand that number. More than 60 students have taken the cyber security courses the past two semesters, he said.

More than half of computer science and information systems graduates in the past three years have taken one or more cyber security course.

The university also is seeking to create a National Cyber Warrior Academy for high school students in the summer. It would be a two-week residence program at Dahlonega. UNG also is waiting on a decision from NSA and the National Science Foundation on that program.

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