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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Cyber Security Center Addressing Workforce Shortages

By Jon Cawley

Old Dominion University's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research is dedicated to filling a significant workforce gap in the high demand field that is responsible for preventing databases and other computer-based infrastructure from being compromised by hackers.

At the regular fall meeting of the Old Dominion University Board of Visitors, Hongyi "Michael" Wu, the center's director, told the Academic and Research Advancement Committee that the new major will graduate its first students in spring 2018.

"The program is driven by extremely high demand for cyber security professionals," Wu said, adding that cyber security professionals earn average salaries that are higher than other IT professions.

Wu said that the field's unemployment rate is currently "zero," and Virginia alone has approximately 36,000 job openings in the field — one of the highest in the nation in terms of demand concentration. In the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, cyber security currently employs 7,430 workers while job openings total 3,329.

"As a University that serves this region, we have an obligation to produce a quality workforce to meet the demand, and that is exactly what ODU is doing," he said.

Wu noted that the University's inter-disciplinary cyber security major started with 11 students in 2015 and has grown to 123 this fall. During that time, faculty members have secured $3 million in research grants and published 30 papers on research findings in academic journals, he said.

ODU's online Bachelor of Science degree program was recently ranked 6th best in the nation for quality and affordability by AffordableColleges.com.

Wu noted that the program takes a "holistic" interdisciplinary approach with a diverse team that includes 30 faculty members along with other staff and undergraduate and graduate students from four of the University's academic colleges and eight academic departments.

"Our strategy is to build a strong core for cyber security," he said. Wu added that the program includes specialized concentrations in cybercrime, system security and healthcare security, among others.

The Old Dominion center's cyber security lab is unique compared to other universities in that it exists completely outside the campus computer network. The isolated nature of the lab's network allows students to watch actual hackers as they work without threat to the University's main computer network.

"This is a great resource to observe real-world attacks and interact with hackers in a secure environment," Wu said. "It's a phenomenal cyber security infrastructure."

But Wu cautioned that there is no silver bullet to address the seemingly near-daily epidemic of major cyberattacks

"It's a moving challenge," he said. "We have to do what we can — focus on quality education and research."

In other business, the Board of Visitors unanimously adopted a six-year academic and financial plan for 2018-2024.

The plan included funding for various initiatives including expansion and modernization of the University's online education programming, STEM-H Express, cybersecurity, a post-event economic analysis component in the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency, the Center for Excellence in Falls Prevention as well as student financial aid, faculty salaries and operating funds to support access, degree completion and student success.

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