Posted January 29, 2007
Sixteen Idaho State University students studying information assurance and computer security as part of the Federal Cyber Service program spent three days in Washington, D.C., meeting with federal executives and explaining the success of the ISU information assurance program.
The students participate in an interdisciplinary program for graduate and undergraduate students studying in various majors at ISU as part of the National Science Foundation Cyber Corps Scholarship for Service program.
The invited students had an opportunity to meet with senior computer-security officials from many agencies and departments including U.S. Department of State, Department of Agriculture, National Security Agency, Department of Commerce, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Interior, U.S. Senate, as well as others.
These meetings and interviews resulted in both internship and permanent job offers for ISU students, said Dr. Corey Schou, director of ISU Informatics Research and Education and the ISU National Information Assurance Training and Education Center (NIATEC).
“One of our graduate students was even asked to participate in the federal chief information officer’s forum during their stay,” Schou said.
ISU students also were invited to private meetings with both former and present computer-security experts from the Department of Commerce and White House. Senior White House advisors met for two hours with the ISU students for a frank, open question-and-answer meeting on cyber-security policy formation.
ISU is one of only 18 Center of Academic Excellence universities nationwide participating in the exclusive Scholarship for Service program. ISU was one of the first National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security Centers of Academic Excellence more than 10 years ago.
“We have not only maintained our certification but have expanded our outreach over the years,” Schou said. “ Idaho State University is the only school in the Cyber Service program that has a 100 percent placement rate of its graduates and a 100 percent pass rate on the national certification examinations.”
The success of the program, according to Schou, stems from the close mentoring and professional atmosphere fostered by the program staff. The Idaho Congressional delegation has been enthusiastic supporters of other aspects of the program that provides a national portal and clearing-house for computer security materials for researchers and faculty worldwide.
“After meeting with our students,” Schou said, “a former White House official said, ‘Your students are exactly what we had in mind when we proposed the legislation a decade ago.’”
ISU Master of Business Administration major and Scholarship for Service student Steve Hernandez expressed his enthusiasm about the trip to Washington, D.C.
“I think it was a very synergistic situation,” Hernandez said. “I personally received exposure to the Department of Defense, civilian agencies, and private contractors. They all seemed to be very impressed with ISU students, because we’re generalists and can cover the three main aspects of information assurance, which are policy and planning, program management and information security.”
Hernandez described ISU’s participation in the Scholarship for Service program through learning opportunities at NIATEC as one of the University’s “hidden gems.” The Scholarship for Service program is the federal government’s response to the threat to the United States’ information technology infrastructure by strengthening the cadre of information-assurance professionals who protect it. The National Science Foundation partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to issue selected four-year colleges and universities scholarship grants to attract students to the information-assurance field.
Students participating in the Scholarship for Service program must serve a federal agency for a period equivalent to the length of the scholarship or one year, whichever is longer.
“What the Scholarship for Service students get here (at ISU) is a 100 percent hand-built education,” Schou said. “We have students from all over coming here for this program, and our graduates are in very high demand.”