Southeast Creates Institute for Cybersecurity


A new Institute for Cybersecurity is being created at Southeast Missouri State University to further research, education and service activities in this growing high-need field of study.

The Institute will begin taking shape and will launch with the spring 2020 semester following approval today by the University’s Board of Regents.

The Institute will enhance and facilitate work done in cybersecurity at Southeast, including aiding student learning outcomes, fostering business and industry outreach, encouraging knowledge growth through cutting-edge research, publishing research findings and serving as a resource for cybersecurity-related developments and information, connecting individuals with learning modules and industry-specific certificates and trainings.

Southeast President Carlos Vargas said the Institute is an action taken as a result of the success of Southeast’s cybersecurity programs. The Institute is also Southeast’s response to a recommendation in a 2016 Missouri Cybersecurity Task Force Action Plan developed under former Gov. Jay Nixon to identify cybersecurity best practices and a path for Missouri to work proactively against a growing number of cyber threats, Vargas said. Areas in which the Institute for Cybersecurity at Southeast is expected to contribute to Missouri’s educational and workforce development endeavors include academic and research coordination, academic content delivery, research funding, scholarships and Career Services, he said.

“Southeast was the first public higher education institution to develop an undergraduate program in cybersecurity in 2011. The program began with 21 undergraduate students and now serves nearly 160 students this fall. Our graduates are sought after and are successfully securing employment with top-level firms, including AIG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Dell Secure Works, Enterprise, Express Scripts and Ameren, among others,” Vargas said.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have designated Southeast Missouri State as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. Vargas said the Institute will align with the curricular and research goals that NSA and DHS have outlined in their designation pathways for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to address national workforce shortages in cybersecurity.

Southeast Provost Mike Godard said the Institute will be “broad reaching,” will allow the University to take a “holistic view” of cybersecurity and extend the work of its academic programs in cybersecurity.

“We are also very pleased to offer a new Master of Science in cybersecurity for the first time this fall that focuses on critical societal and business infrastructure – water, power, communications, military, healthcare and transportation,” Godard said.

The Institute may offer service-learning opportunities for middle school and high school students and research endeavors that will support Southeast’s cybersecurity academic program. Godard said he would like to see the Institute develop more robust partnerships with non-profits and the military branches on campus, including the Show-Me GOLD Missouri National Guard program and the Air Force ROTC, to share best practices. These partnerships could give students and faculty the opportunity work with the military and others to learn more about protecting information from data breaches.

The Institute will be led by a faculty or professional staff member, will report to the Provost and will be located in the University’s new Cyber Range in Dempster Hall. Initially, the Institute will operate with University support and existing cybersecurity resources, transitioning eventually to external resources to sustain its operations.