Learning from the experts

MentorLinks assisted with enhancements to Johnson County Community College’s information technology-networking program that helped the college attain CAE designation, attract positive attention and grow enrollment. (Photo: JCCC)

The MentorLinks team at Johnson County Community College in Kansas learned about the benefits of being recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense 2-Year Education (CAE) from Danis Heighton, who is their mentor through MentorLinks. He also told them about the challenges of attaining the designation from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“You try your best to do everything you can to support your students and be on the leading edge,” Andrew Lutz, associate professor of information technology, said of the decision to tackle the rigorous process.

Editor’s note: This article concludes a series focusing on MentorLinks, a program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and managed by the American Association of Community Colleges.

Heighton, a computer science professor at Clark State Community College in Ohio, shared what he and his colleagues had done to attain CAE designation. Heighton also facilitated the team’s visit to the National Support Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA) at Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. Conversations during this MentorLinks site visit led to John Sands, CSSIA principal investigator, who helped to guide JCCC’s CAE application.

Since JCCC received the designation in April 2019, Lutz said he has received more inquiries about the information technology-networking program. In December, the college had filled two 15-student sections of Network Security Fundamentals for spring 2020. It previously had just enough students to offer one section of the course per semester.

Lutz theorizes that the cybersecurity program’s more dynamic website and public programs — just two aspects of the work that college personnel did to meet CAE criteria — have increased the program’s visibility. JCCC’s inclusion on the NSA/DHA list of institutions that meet the agencies’ standards could also be fueling enrollment.

Heighton was a helpful sounding board throughout the challenges of the CAE process and development of the new cybersecurity certificate program that began in fall 2019, said Lutz, adding: “He was always willing to talk and that was very valuable to me.”

The CAE designation achieved by JCCC was also facilitated by other programs funded by NSF and NSA, including mentoring by the National Cybersecurity Training & Education Center at Whatcom Community College in Washington.

Looking at local IT trends

To address regional information technology market trends, the team at Daytona State College in Florida developed a database technology associate of science degree and added a cloud services course.

Luke Sui, computer science professor and assistant department chair, and Anindya Paul, computer science chair, said biweekly video conference calls with MentorLinks mentor Vincent A. DiNoto, Jr., were critical to the program’s launch this fall. They said that contacts they made at the ATE Principal Investigators’ Conferences also informed their curriculum development and marketing efforts. DiNoto is director and principal investigator of the National Geospatial Center of Excellence at Jefferson Community Technical College in Kentucky.

Reactivating a program and more

The team at McHenry County College in Illinois redesigned the network security program, added a new course and reactivated four Cisco courses that were not offered on campus for a decade with guidance from MentorLinks mentor Elizabeth Hawthorne. Hawthorne is a senior professor at Union County College in New Jersey.

Previous articles in this series on MentorLinks: “Developing dynamic professional relationships” and “MentorLinks provides colleges with opportunities

Stephen Mujeye, networking instructor, and Gina McConoughey, associate vice president of academic affairs, reported that their MentorLinks site visit to Johnson County Community College in Kansas informed their approach for offering the network security degree and Cisco certifications. The college’s MentorLinks grant paid for a faculty member to take courses to become a Cisco-certified instructor, which was essential for the project’s success.

Raising awareness about cybersecurity

To help Piedmont Virginia Community College in Virginia achieve its ambitious, long-term cybersecurity program goals, mentor Cathy Balas helped the MentorLinks team energize its outreach and align its courses to meet the rigorous requirements for designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense 2-Year Education (CAE). Balas is a consultant emeritus trustee of Clark State Community College in Ohio.

Richard Seweryniak, associate professor of cybersecurity, and Olugbemiga Adekunle, dean of business, mathematics and technology, established a Cybersecurity Day that brings cybersecurity experts to campus to interact with students and raise awareness of the college’s program. They also started a cyber league team that engages students in virtual competitions that challenge the skills they learn in class.

During the next few years, the team plans to continue working on the requirements for CAE designation and seeking external support for computer hardware, virtual resources and hands-on labs.

More article on MentorLinks

About the Author

Madeline Patton
is an education writer based in Ohio.