UNG gets cyber security funding

Advancing GenCyber Education for North Georgia Teachers Initiative

Ten University of North Georgia faculty members and industry professionals instructed teachers and high school students about cybersecurity through two academies this month. The academies are just one way UNG aims to address cybersecurity workforce shortages in a world of increasing cyber threats.

More than 464,000 cyber jobs are open nationwide and more than 17,000 are open in Georgia, according to CyberSeek, which provides job market data.

The National Security Agency funded the Advancing GenCyber Education for North Georgia Teachers Initiative and GenCyber Warrior Academy through a grant of $169,113.03.

High school students in the residential GenCyber Warrior Academy didn’t have to look far to see someone previously in their position. Jasmine Valentine, a rising UNG junior from Savannah, Georgia, pursuing a degree in cybersecurity, was one of five cadet mentors for the 35 students.

Valentine attended the academy in 2018 and went on a field trip to the NSA’s Georgia location at Fort Gordon in Augusta. That is when she had an epiphany.

“That’s what I want to do. That’s the career I want to have,” she said.

The GenCyber academy helped Valentine realize she could pursue her cyber and military goals at UNG. Now she is on a Department of Defense (DOD) scholarship that facilitates internship and networking opportunities.

Dr. Bryson Payne, a professor of computer science and director of UNG’s Center for Cyber Operations Education, was grateful Valentine served as a mentor at the GenCyber Warrior Academy this year.

“We’re really proud to see our students return and give back to students who are at the same point they were just a few years ago,” Payne said.

Garv Gaur, a rising senior at Lakeview Academy, in Gainesville, Georgia, expected to receive a refresher on the basics of cybersecurity but was impressed by the depth of the content.

“It’s gone far beyond what I expected out of it,” Gaur said.

The student academy aimed to help all students see their potential in cybersecurity. Dr. Mingyuan Yan, an associate professor of computer science, was grateful for that set-up. She remembers how a female professor she had during her undergraduate studies served as an inspiration for her career.

“We want to give female students the idea that if you’re interested in this topic, you can do it,” Yan said.

The AGENT Initiative for educators provided valuable tips for Autumn Sutton, who has taught for a decade, including six years in computer science. She will teach introduction to digital technology at Buford High School this fall.

Her school’s ultimate goal is to encourage students to complete a computer science pathway and potentially earn industry certification at Buford High.

The collaborative format at AGENT Initiative with her 21 fellow middle and high school teachers was especially insightful.

“That’s so helpful because when you’re in your schools, there’s usually only one computer science teacher in the building,” Sutton said.

Dr. Lindsay Linsky, a College of Education associate professor who was the lead instructor for the AGENT Initiative, was grateful to be a part of the push to inspire students to study cybersecurity.

“In every single industry, there’s a need for cyber professionals, and we can’t find enough of them fast enough,” Linsky said.

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