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MSU makes top three in cybersecurity education ranking

STARKVILLE — According to a Hewlett Packard-sponsored survey by the Ponemon Institute, Mississippi State University’s cybersecurity courses and degree programs rank among the top three for academic excellence and practical relevance.

Only the University of Texas at San Antonio and Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., ranked higher at first and second, respectively.

Syracuse University in New York state and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh tied for fourth place, while Purdue University in Indiana was fifth.

Last year, the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command designated MSU’s cyberoperations program as a center of academic excellence for providing top-flight information-assurance education and research programs. The university also holds national CAE designations in information assurance education and in information assurance research.

MSU is the only institution of higher education in the state to hold all three designations.

The university’s professional reputation, especially in academic rigor and quality of faculty, influenced its high ranking from Ponemon, according to the survey. Many faculty members hold federal government security clearances ranging from secret to top secret, while numerous students in the program also maintain active clearances.

Dave Dampier, MSU professor of computer science and engineering, said, “Our computer science and engineering department benefits greatly from the cybersecurity program by attracting quality students from all over the country. We are especially proud of the increase in the percentage of women participants that we have seen in recent years.”

Dampier, a member of the MSU faculty since 2000, said females make up almost 50 percent of the program’s current enrollment. Student diversity in the cybersecurity program serves to expand and enhance the curricula.

Ponemon’s highest-ranked institutions all featured academic curricula addressing both theoretical and practical applications of cybersecurity. MSU’s three information-technology research operations — the Center for Computer Security Research, National Forensics Training Center and Critical Infrastructure Protection Center — meet the qualifications by providing real-world and hypothetical studies of the latest issues facing cybersecurity professionals.

Dampier said the undergraduate and graduate programs also are designed to provide hands-on learning opportunities to help prepare a new generation of professionals for a range of cybersecurity skills. These include the reverse engineering of software such as viruses, Trojan horses and other types of malware, he added.

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