at Great Falls College Montana State University
Since Summer 2005, Great Falls College Montana State University has been teaching the core classes for the Cisco Network Academy. In Summer 2011, GFC MSU added ITS 256 CCNA Security. At the time, the field of securing information was called “Information Assurance” and was taught to GFC MSU students. Since then, the term has morphed into “Cybersecurity” and gained national attention as cyber threats increased. To emphasize our students had training in cybersecurity, in 2018 GFC MSU changed the name of its existing AAS in CIT - Network Support to CIT - Network Support & Security.
Based on state and national labor market reports and input from the college’s local Computer Technology Advisory Committee, in Fall 2017 GFC MSU began planning for a CTS in Cybersecurity for those in the workforce who wanted to add to their skills and credentials and for an AAS in Cybersecurity for students entering the field who need foundational computer information technology coursework as well as cybersecurity training.
In October 2017, GFC MSU also participated in a Center of Academic Excellent (CAE) Workshop held at Gallatin College. At that time, two-year colleges with existing or potential cybersecurity programs were encouraged to apply for the CAE designation. Missoula College had already applied and subsequently received the CAE designation in November of that year. GFC MSU and Gallatin College expressed interest in pursuing the CAE designation as well.
GFC MSU developed the curriculum for its programs using Common Course Numbered classes as well as created additional needed classes, gaining input from local industry experts through the college’sComputer Technology Advisory Committee. Official Intent to Plan forms for both the CTS and AAS in Cybersecurity were submitted March 2018. The programs were approved by the Board of Regents as Level I academic items in October 2018. The AAS in Cybersecurity was approved by NWCCU December 7, 2018, effective January 1, 2019. The CTS in Cybersecurity was approved by NWCCU January 2, 2019, effective January 1, 2019. Final approval by the Department of Education is pending.
Throughout the process, Missoula College, Gallatin College, and GFC MSU have been collaborating on the curriculum and the programs. Even though each college’s program has been tailored for its local community, the colleges have discussed course sharing arrangements and worked on Common Course Numbering issues that have arisen. The GFC MSU curricula for the AAS in Network Support & Security, the CTS in Cybersecurity, and the AAS in Cybersecurity are attached.
In addition to GFC MSU’s existing Computer Technology faculty, expert adjunct instructors working in the field will teach courses in the degrees. So far, such adjuncts include the Associate Vice President for Information Risk at D.A. Davidson in Great Falls; a retiring Air Force ICBM Wing Codes Superintendent from Malmstrom Air Force Base who will be working for Raytheon as a security analyst; and the Global Director for FireEye, a national public cybersecurity company.
Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense
In conjunction with implementing the CTS and AAS in Cybersecurity, GFC MSU has also been pursuing the CAE designation. As stated, Missoula College became a CAE in November 2017. The Cyber Defense Education Program (CDE) is jointly sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The CAE-CDE designation at the associate level is available to regionally accredited two-year colleges as outlined by the Department of Education. The CAE-CDE designation signals that a program has met national standards and criteria (see attached).
A college must have a program related to information security in existence for three years before it can apply for the CAE designation. Because GFC MSU’s Networking Support & Security program has taught CCNA Security for more than three years, that program can apply for the designation now. Once a college has received the CAE designation, additional programs are eligible to apply for the CAE designation as soon as the programs graduate their first students. Thus, the CTS in Cybersecurity will be eligible to apply in 2021 and the AAS in Cybersecurity in 2022.
As a two-year college, GFC MSU seeks transfer opportunities for students to pursue a bachelor’s degree upon completion of their AAS or AS/AA. GFC MSU looks first to MSU schools, MUS universities, and then other accredited institutions of higher education. Unfortunately, at this time, a bachelor’s degree in
Networking or Cybersecurity does not exist in the MUS. For that reason, Missoula College has articulated with Excelsior University. GFC MSU is currently considering articulations with several four year universities. The articulation agreements formalize a pathway and align coursework for students who would like to continue their degree opportunities beyond an associate’s degree.
In the Spring of 2018, GFC MSU students started a Cybersecurity Club (see attached flyer). The club enables students to participate in national Cyber Defense competitions. In Fall 2018, several members of GFC MSU’s Cybersecurity Club participated in a National Cyber League Competition and gained great knowledge and experience in the field. Members of the club also mentor high school and middle school students who participate in national CyberPatriot competitions. In Summer 2018, GFC MSU used Perkins Grant funds to develop and provide a CyberPatriot Camp for 16 middle school and high school students. Two additional camps, one basic and one advanced, are planned for Summer 2019.
Cybersecurity is quickly becoming the largest and fastest growing Technology sector worldwide. Global spending on cyber-related services is expected to top 1 trillion dollars in the next 5 years, which in turn will raise the cybersecurity-related jobs from 1 million to 1.5 million with a projection of only one job applicant for every three security-related jobs by the year 2021. GFC MSU has a great opportunity to prepare students to fill these cybersecurity positions. For more information, see