Minot State earns National Security Agency Cyber Defense designation

Charles Crane/MDN From left to right, Anthony Aukland from NDIT, Business Information Technology Chair Lorraine Willoughby, Minot State President Steven Shirley, Assistant Professor Chad Fenner, and North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott show off their cybersecurity “Rally Towels” at the ceremony announcing Minot State University’s NSA CAE certification.

A capacity crowd of students, professors, and state dignitaries gathered in the hallway outside the Minot State University Cyber Center in Old Main on Wednesday. The University announced that the Management Information Systems program has been designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense through 2027.

“The protection of data and cyber systems directly impacts nearly every person on the planet,” said University President Steven Shirley, “As a university preparing our students and forthcoming graduates for future opportunities, it is imperative that we are delivering education and helping them hone skills appropriate for the needs of our evolving world.”

With this announcement, MSU becomes the first four-year institution in the North Dakota University System and one of 300 institutions in the nation to earn the CAE designation. Universities achieving this designation must maintain and meet a variety of criteria that set them apart from other programs around the country.

“There’s 6,000 colleges in America. So that puts you in the top five percent. And I can tell you almost all of these colleges now know they’ve got try to build programs like this,” said NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

In addition to meeting a high standard of academic excellence and competency in students and staff, the CAE is given to programs that value community outreach and leadership in educating and assisting professional and public development outside of the classroom.

Assistant Professor Chad Fenner leads the program’s development, but highlighted the essential role played by faculty, students, and the College of Business’ technology club, Students With Interest in Future Technologies, in particular.

“We’re going out to local businesses and helping them understand what the benefits and the threats are from a cybersecurity point of view,” said Fenner.

The students have ventured out into the public to demonstrate and educate the importance and opportunity in learning more about how cybersecurity affects their jobs and everyday lives.

“I’m very impressed by the student population that we have at Minot State,” said Fenner, “Without the students we have and the desire they have to learn this skill and to build this skill, we wouldn’t see what’s behind me.”


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