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NSA names UMS a cybersecurity National Center of Excellence

October 30, 2014

NR14079

The federal government has recognized the University of Maine System (UMS) as one of the nation's premier academic leaders in the area of cybersecurity education.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated the UMS as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity (CAE/IAE), a designation that honors schools excelling in the development of professionals who help protect national security information systems.

The government has newly minted only a handful of schools nationwide with this specific designation, and the UMS is the first in the state of Maine to receive the recognition, which extends from 2014 to 2019.

“We are honored to be named as a National Center for Academic Excellence,” said UMS cybersecurity expert Raymond Albert, a professor at the University of Maine at Fort Kent who also serves as program coordinator. “Not only will this give academic institutions within the UMS access to important funding, but it will also open doors for collaboration with other universities in this field of study.”

UMS offers a complete cybersecurity curriculum available to students at each of the partnering institutions (University of Maine at Fort Kent, University of Southern Maine, University of Maine, and University of Maine at Augusta), which includes courses on everything from core information assurance principles to digital forensics and ethical hacking. “A shared, first of its kind, Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity degree program designed to optimize utilization of limited UMS resources is currently under development,” said Albert.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dr. James H. Page said, "This federal designation of UMS as a national leader and center of excellence in cybersecurity is enormously important and a great tribute to our faculty's expertise and enterprise. It is a stellar example of how our campus strengths can unite to create unique opportunities for our students while meeting a critical societal need."

The NSA/DHS designation comes to schools who develop cyber experts for both the private and public sectors and “serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the National Information Infrastructure,” according to the NSA announcement.

Thanks to this designation, UMS graduates who want to work in government and military positions will also have a head start on the competition.

UMFK President Wilson G. Hess said, “Through the foresight and innovation of our faculty, our campus will become a model for other universities in cybersecurity. Prof. Raymond Albert's forward thinking helps our nation stay safe both in the real world and in the virtual world.”

The award avails participating UMS academic institutions and their students' opportunities to apply for special grants and scholarships from the Department of Defense (DoD) and National Science Foundation (NSF) available only to CAE/IAE institutions. There are currently about 130 CAE/IAE institutions in the country. “This is the first in the nation awarded to a university system,” according to Albert.

Becoming a CAE/IAE center requires the institution to pass a rigorous review of the school's cybersecurity resources and curriculum. The UMS distributed CAE/IAE has continued to grow and evolve from its earliest foundations at the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK) in 2003. “Many, including leading members of Maine's political, industrial, and academic communities, have contributed to the attainment of this significant milestone.”

“We had to demonstrate significant contributions in the areas of cybersecurity education, research and service,” Albert said. “This designation will greatly aid the UMS in its quest to contribute more significantly to national efforts to educate future generations of cybersecurity professionals.”