Education

NCCU launches state-of-the-art cybersecurity lab

Posted November 11, 2020 6:15 a.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2020 6:36 a.m. EST

— The pandemic forced North Carolina Central University to launch classes in a new cybersecurity lab virtual environment rather than in person.

The undergraduate business school program is a first of its kind in the UNC system.

The Computer Information Systems program offers three concentrations including cybersecurity, data analytics and information communication and technology.

There's a worldwide demand for the skill, according to Anthony Nelson, dean of the N.C. Central business school.

North Carolina Central University

"Over the next 10 years, there will be approximately a 30% increase in employment in cybersecurity," Nelson said, adding that high demand promises big paychecks. "The median salary is approximately $95,000," he said.

The school built and equipped a $300,000 lab for classes inside the university's business school building, shifting from 10% online learning to 95%.

Students are now challenged with a variety of cyber attack scenarios, where they learn how to enter the cyber world in order to protect business networks from digital threats.

"They can learn how to actually get into a network, look at the routers and set firewalls, they even learn a little hacking," said Karen Schnell, who teaches the class.

Schnell says "ethical" hacking helps students learn how to beat criminal hackers.

News of the business school-based program is attracting interest from across the state, the region and within the university. "Students are switching majors," said associate professor of computer information systems Donna Grant.

Grant says it represents a huge opportunity for under-represented students at the historically Black college.

"I think it's just a win-win when we talk about diversity and inclusion and the whole cybersecurity and data analytics area," said Grant.

The timing of the pandemic created another first for the school. School leaders say it’s the first to actually launch their cybersecurity program in a virtual environment, which will be a valuable asset as student demand for the study expands.

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