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Agreement Between ODU and TNCC Will Clear Pathways for Cybersecurity Education

By Brendan O'Hallarn

NEWPORT NEWS - Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson believes Hampton Roads is providing the road map for the Commonwealth to address the shortage of workers in cyber-industries.

At a signing ceremony April 21 for an articulation agreement in the area of cybersecurity between Old Dominion University and Thomas Nelson Community College, Jackson said the Commonwealth needs to "pull out all the stops" to help fill the 36,000 vacant technology positions in Virginia.

The agreement will allow recipients of Thomas Nelson associate degrees to progress to Old Dominion's cybersecurity undergraduate program, saving as much as $15,000 in tuition by transferring credits. The agreement matches one signed by Old Dominion and Tidewater Community College in February.

"This is a phenomenal model that Hampton Roads has created," Jackson said.

The event at TNCC's Peninsula campus was attended by presidents and academic leaders of both institutions.

Old Dominion President John R. Broderick said the agreement is proof of a long, productive academic partnership between the University and Thomas Nelson, focused on meeting community needs.

"Many of our elected representatives have called for collaboration which provides affordable educational pathways and helps meet business needs," said President Broderick.

This agreement, as well as the work of the Hampton Roads Cybersecurity Education, Workforce and Economic Development Alliance (HRCyber), to which both institutions belong, "shows how we can help in all of these areas," he said.

Thomas Nelson President John Dever welcomed the Old Dominion visitors, noting that an average of 300 graduates from Thomas Nelson progress to ODU every year, making it by far TNCC's largest institutional partnership.

Dever said Thomas Nelson has vigorously pursued its cybersecurity academic initiative, with more than 100 students enrolled in the program after only three years. "At Thomas Nelson, we are deeply committed to excellence in cybersecurity education," Dever said. "With this agreement with Old Dominion, our students have a clear path from high school into the cybersecurity workforce."

Brian Payne, Old Dominion's vice provost for academic affairs, served as emcee for the event. He said such agreements significantly strengthen the HRCyber group, of which he is chair.

"A lot of work by both of our staffs has gone into making it so that students can find a way to associate and bachelor's degrees which are timely and responsive," Payne said.

Through the agreement, which was signed April 21, students graduating from Thomas Nelson with an associate of applied science degree in information systems technology with cybersecurity career studies certificates will be able to readily transition to Old Dominion's cybersecurity major, offered through the interdisciplinary studies program in the College of Arts & Letters.

Old Dominion recognized this critical Commonwealth need in launching its cybersecurity initiative in 2015. The University hired internationally recognized scholar Hongyi "Michael" Wu as its first Batten Chair of Cybersecurity. Wu has led the creation of the University's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, which collects the work of more than two dozen faculty members at Old Dominion.

ODU has blended coursework with research, bringing together faculty, staff, students, community members and other partners to discuss how to study and teach cybersecurity.

Thomas Nelson's cybersecurity program has matured into a variety of offerings to support career pathways for high school students, transitioning military, college transfer students and industry professionals seeking to advance in the cybersecurity field.

The articulation agreement signed with Old Dominion, along with dual enrollment courses for high school juniors from Hampton City Schools, helps the college provide seamless career pathways from high schools to colleges and universities and then to industry.

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