By Keith Pierce

Old Dominion University is set to launch the School of Cybersecurity, the first of its kind in the country, on Oct. 1, the first day of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Expanding from the existing Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research (CCSER), the new school builds on the University's efforts to offer cybersecurity expertise to the Hampton Roads region, Virginia and the nation.

"The School of Cybersecurity is a great example of ODU's commitment to providing educational solutions to address real challenges in our region and the world," President John R. Broderick said. "It embraces an interdisciplinary foundation to expand the pipeline for a diverse group of cybersecurity, resilience and engineering professionals who will be responsible for safeguarding our critical infrastructure."

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, cybersecurity jobs are now growing faster than the average for all other occupations. Last year, Cybersecurity Ventures predicted there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021.

Old Dominion is the first research university in the country to launch a School of Cybersecurity offering interdisciplinary degree programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Georgia Tech recently opened its School of Cybersecurity and Privacy, which does not include an undergraduate focus.

The school will operate under the Office of Academic Affairs and report to Brian Payne, vice provost for academic affairs.

"This is the right time and ODU is the right institution to have such a unique school," Payne said. "To fully realize the growth of tech talent in Virginia, it is imperative that we have a diverse pool of professionals able to help secure the technology. There are more than 54,000 cybersecurity jobs open in the state. We are preparing our students for these jobs."

In 2019, the National Security Agency (NSA) designated ODU a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations Fundamental for 2019-2024. The University gained the designation by demonstrating the faculty research grants and publications related to the field of cyber operations and the ability to provide undergraduate curricula that satisfy the necessary academic requirements.

The school "draws on Old Dominion's well-established state and national recognition as a leader in cybersecurity workforce development," Payne said. "This is an important step for ODU as it meets the needs of students while also offering a substantial positive impact on the Hampton Roads region, the state and the nation."

The move to become a school is largely driven by the increase in student interest in cybersecurity programs since they began in 2015.

"We started with 11 students," said Hongyi "Michael" Wu, director of CCSER who will lead the new school. "We now have roughly 800 students, so it made sense to create an academic unit to better support them in an education environment that they can call home."

Student interest as well as industry demand also facilitated the need for additional degrees. Since 2018, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approved two cybersecurity degrees for ODU - a Master of Science, which has grown to more than 100 students, and a Bachelor of Science, launched in the fall of 2019.

"For ODU, this is more than a name change," said Payne. "As the demand for cybersecurity education continues to increase, in addition to our ongoing research, we want to expand our focus on students to ensure they have the support they need to pursue these careers that are so critical to our nation's workforce, particularly its economic and national security."

Research funding will be used to hire research scientists in the upcoming year. In addition, more than three dozen faculty across campus will be affiliated with the school.

Old Dominion's School of Cybersecurity will soon be located in Monarch Hall.

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