By Bruce Caulkins, UCF Modeling and Simulation of Behavioral Cybersecurity Program

The United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) selected the University of Central Florida’s School of Modeling, Simulation, and Training (SMST) to join its Academic Engagement Network (AEN) with USCYBERCOM. The network is focused on alleviating the nation’s cybersecurity workforce shortages.

The AEN includes USCYBERCOM Headquarters, Joint Force HQ-DODIN, the Cyber National Mission Force, and the services’ respective cyber commands.

Dr. Grace Bochenek, Director, UCF SMST

“This distinction further highlights UCF’s contribution to national security and our prestigious cyber program that has long been a top tier program at the university,” says Grace Bochenek, director of SMST. “We are pleased to be part of the AEN and do our part to engage the next generation cyber professionals.”

There is a big demand for cyber professionals. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic reports a 33.3% growth in information security analysts’ jobs through 2030. The median salary for these jobs is $103,509. UCF is well positioned to help meet the demand.

“For UCF, this is a major step forward towards our work in Cyber Education and Research,” says Bruce Caulkins, director of the Modeling and Simulation of Behavioral Cybersecurity program at UCF. “This partnership will be an excellent two-way street as we will benefit from the USCYBERCOM-led events, research collaborations and enterprise-wide internship opportunities for our students. USCYBERCOM, in return, will benefit from the wide range of expertise in cyber research and education, to include UCF’s cyber cluster, computer science department, and business department.”

UCF also is home to the Cyber Security and Privacy faculty cluster, which conducts about $6 million worth of cutting-edge research in this area each year. The university also has a four-time national championship cybersecurity team whose members are routinely recruited for full-time jobs by groups such as Amazon, Apple, Bishop Fox, Facebook, GuidePoint Security, Lockheed Martin, L3Harris, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, SnapChat ,TravelClick, Uber and Walt Disney World.

Bruce Caulkins, Director, Modeling and Simulation of Behavioral Cybersecurity

Because of UCF’s expertise, the university has been awarded a $2.5 million U.S. National Science Foundation grant to help train the next generation of cyber professionals. UCF’s distinguished academic programs — including the information technology (IT) bachelor’s degree with the secure computing and networks (SCAN) minor — also led to designations from the National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (in 2016 and the National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research in 2017. The new cyber security and privacy master’s degree has been popular since its start in Fall 2021 term at UCF.

“We plan on leveraging the operational aspects of AEN while augmenting our undergraduate and graduate-level education, particularly our master’s degree in Cybersecurity and Privacy at UCF,” says Yan Solihin, director of the Cyber Security and Privacy faculty cluster and interim chair of the computer science department.

UCF is one of almost 100 universities, community colleges, service academies and federal graduate level colleges across the nation who are members of AEN.

Additionally, the Collegiate Cyber Defense Club (Hack@UCF) has nearly 200 members that would be an excellent talent pool for PCTE projects to test out the technical and integrative aspects of the PCTE environment itself.

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