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Drexel Named Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Education

June 28, 2017


The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have recognized Drexel's cybersecurity program as one of the best in the country.

Drexel University has distinguished itself as one of the top institutions for cybersecurity education in the nation, according to the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. This month, the NSA and DHS recertified the university as Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. Drexel’s remains the first cybersecurity program in Philadelphia to receive this distinction and joins just over 200 programs in the nation that have earned the certification for “contributing to the protection of the National Information Infrastructure.”

“While our program has held a certification in cybersecurity education for more than a decade, this recertification is particularly noteworthy given that the government has significantly increased the difficulty of satisfying the certification requirements,” said Steven Weber, PhD, director of Drexel’s Isaac L. Auerbach Cybersecurity Institute and a professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering. “That we were able to do so is a testament to the fact that Drexel cybersecurity education is among the best in the nation.”

To earn the five-year certification, programs undergo “an in-depth assessment and have met the rigorous requirements to be designated a Center for Academic Excellence.” This includes providing a detailed matching between hundreds of specific technical topics that are required to be addressed and the various learning objectives and content modules in numerous courses in Drexel’s cybersecurity curriculum.

“Like all nations, the United States has a compelling interest in defending its vital national assets, as well as our core principles and values, and we are committed to defending against those who would attempt to impede our ability to do so. Education is the key to promoting these ideals,” National Center of Academic Excellence Program Manager Karen Leuschner said in a statement.

Since opening in 2014 as a collaboration between faculty whose research interests ranged from computer science, to national security, business and law, the Institute has partnered with local industries to provide meaningful training that prepares students for jobs in the ever-changing field of cybersecurity. More than 22 faculty from across the campus are now affiliated with the Institute, and have helped to build graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as online degree and certificate programs.

In 2015 the Institute formally partnered with the U.S. Army Reserve to offer cybersecurity training for reservists. Since then, it has been recognized as one of the top programs for veterans to study cybersecurity.

Faculty and business partners in the Institute helped mentor Drexel’s student cybersecurity team through regional qualifying to its first appearance in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. This challenge puts students into real-world scenarios to test their knowledge, teamwork and situational management in the midst of a cyberattack.

In addition, the Institute’s research faculty are pioneering the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, stylometry, and social media in cybersecurity.

“In addition to the generous naming gift from the Isaac and Carol Auerbach Foundation, the Institute has received support for its education and research from federal and corporate sources, including grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),” Weber said. “Moreover, we are continuing to support research by partnering with companies in the field.”

Looking toward the future, Weber sees the Institute expanding its business partnerships in the region and fostering new courses in areas such as cryptography, cryptocurrencies, information privacy, and compliance.

“Cybersecurity is uniquely challenging as a technical discipline because it requires both a firm technical foundation in mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering, as well as an understanding of the constantly evolving threat landscape,” Weber said. “As such it provides a fantastic opportunity for meaningful collaboration between academia and industry, and our recent initiatives and research proposals aim to strengthen such partnerships.”