Iowa Board of Regents

ISU Information Assurance Center Aids State of Iowa Cybersecurity Efforts

Governor Terry Branstad announced the State of Iowa’s first cybersecurity strategy in a press conference earlier this month. The strategy stemmed from an executive order directing a number of state agencies to work together to develop a plan to respond to cybersecurity events and strengthen the state’s cybersecurity resiliency. Iowa State University’s Information Assurance Center (IAC) was a key contributor, aiding the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Iowa Communications Network and the Iowa National Guard in drafting the report. 

Part of the state’s new cybersecurity strategy involves STEM education and retention. The IAC and Iowa State help spearhead this effort by participating in the National Science Foundation Scholarships for Service (SFS) program, which offers financial aid to students working in Information Assurance in exchange for a service commitment with a state or federal agency. The SFS fellowship program began at ISU in 2001 and has provided more than $8,000,000 in funding to more than 80 students.

“The Scholarships for Service partnership between state agencies and the Information Assurance Center helps ensure the state’s STEM graduates stay in Iowa,” said Jeff Franklin, the state of Iowa’s Deputy Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer. “Many of these students want to stay in Iowa and make a difference in their home state. This is a great opportunity for them to do that.”

Scholarships span two years and cover the full cost of attendance of Iowa State’s Information Assurance program. The partnership between ISU and the state government agencies was initially modeled after the State of Washington, but officials believe the model has moved beyond such comparison.

“We believe our partnership has now become a model for other states,” said Doug Jacobson, University Professor and Director of the Iowa State Information Assurance Center. “We are working with state officials to develop the nation’s first computer security literacy curriculum designed for middle school and high school students, in addition to several other projects.”

The SFS program at Iowa State requires students to take four courses designed to help them become leaders in information assurance. This fall, the IAC added a new course in cyber security operations, allowing students to gain experience working with professional IT staff to identify threats. The course is one of the first of its kind in the nation.

“This course, and the SFS as a whole, provides a unique opportunity to students to gain hands-on experience with IT professionals,” Jacobson said. “The SFS program has helped raise the national visibility of the IAC to the point where we have government agencies recruiting our non-SFS students, as well.”

State of Iowa Cybersecurity Strategy (PDF)

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