By Tyler Bergen
Recent expansions to Whatcom Community College’s computer information systems (CIS) department, has led to more courses geared towards cyber defense. After being awarded 6.4 million dollars from the National Science Foundation, the department has taken step towards developing Whatcom’s first four year degree.
Based on the merits of academics, Whatcom was selected for the grant to help construct a program that will combine the tools of information technology networking with cyber defense to lead other schools in creating similar curricula.
Cyberwatch West is a National Science Foundation center for cyber security education. There are four regional centers, and Whatcom has taken a leadership role in developing cyber security in the western region.
“There are currently twenty three centers of academic excellence designated under the new criteria,” said CIS chair and Cyberwatch West principal investigator Corrinne Sande. “This is a designation Whatcom has had for several years, for a long time we were the only school on the west coast that had it”, she added.
The goal of both the CIS department and Cyberwatch west, “Is to expand the number of cyber security programs being offered in the United States so that eventually we can impact the workforce,” said Sande.
Whatcom works closely with fellow institutions: California State Polytechnic University Pomona, Coastline Community College, and California State University San Bernardino to help with student development, curriculum development/revision/ dissemination, faculty development, and partnership programs with other schools.
Planned to launch in 2017, Whatcom’s first four year bachelors program will be a bachelors in IT networking. This program came as a result of expansion in the CIS department.
This program will give students a degree specifically geared towards IT networking and includes courses from Whatcom’s two year AAS degree in Cyber Security. The CIS department continues to expand its courses and develop new classes to the National Science Foundation criteria.
“It’s a great program that has many career paths and options,” said Kyle Davis, Whatcom student and student help desk member. “CIS is a growing field with a lot of great opportunities,” he added.
Whatcom’s information technology club, the IT Pros, have been busy preparing for the Pacific Rim Cyber Defense Competition, an annual event in which students defend their computers from professional cyber-attacks conducted by various groups and government agencies. The regional competition is part of a larger international competition similar to a bracket tournament.
“For eight years we have gone to the Pacific Rim Competition, our ninth team is going this year. Teams play against each other and the winners compete in Austin at the national level,” said Sande.
Whatcom is getting involved in competitions all the way down to the middle school level, where students have simpler tasks, like securing an image. Whatcom also sponsors two teams competing in a similar completion from Bellingham High School.
“We are running a Cyber Patriot camp on Saturdays, it’s a cyber security camp for high school students, we have two teams participating in it, and this is sponsored by the CIS,” said Sande.
The CIS department also reaches out to students by running a student help desk located in baker hall. Its purpose is to repair computers and assist student’s with computer related issues.
“It’s staffed by students, and they will help fix computers for free. 90% of the time I would say they are removing viruses and malware from people’s computers,” said Sande.