Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been selected as a national Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. IUP is one of only six institutions in Pennsylvania and one of just 102 universities in the nation selected for this recognition.

National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security logosIUP was one of the first universities in the nation to integrate the disciplines of criminology and computer science to support an academic program in information assurance (now known as cyber defense).

Cyber defense education refers to information operations that protect and defend information and information systems by ensuring availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality and non-repudiation.

IUP was first recognized as a Center for Academic Excellence in 2002 and has held the designation throughout 2015. The most recently designation is for 2016 through 2021.

“IUP's faculty and programs are definitely on the cutting edge of cyber defense,” IUP President Michael Driscoll said. “IUP is proud to retain the academic excellence designation in an area of growing importance to our region and our nation, and we are committed to the continuing growth of our program and securing new opportunities for students, including scholarships.”

IUP's program is unique because of its interdisciplinary character, blending the disciplines of criminology and computer science, David Smith, chairperson of IUP's Department of Computer Science, said. “In addition to the development of computer programs and systems for cyber security, IUP's program focuses on cybercrime detection, loss prevention, and how to collect the evidence to prosecute cyber security offenders.”

Universities are chosen for the “Academic Excellence” status by demonstrating excellence on eight evaluative criteria, including an established center for cyber defense education, a program of study that is central to a vibrant and mature program, proof of fostering student research in cyber defense, sufficient faculty committed to the program, faculty members who are experts and active in current cyber defense practice and research, a cyber defense program that is multidisciplinary, an institution information system security plan, and cyber defense outreach beyond the institution.

The Centers for Academic Excellence program is intended to reduce vulnerabilities in the national information infrastructure by promoting higher education in cyber defense and producing a growing number of professionals with information assurance expertise in various disciplines, according to the National Security Agency.

IUP offers a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science (information assurance track) and a minor in information assurance.

The information assurance program at IUP began as a result of a $250,768 grant from the National Science Foundation received in August 2001 to establish a “cybersecurity education and research center for western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.”

Students at universities designated as Centers for Academic Excellence are eligible to apply for scholarships and grants through the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program. IUP also has been successful in securing a National Science Foundation Cyber Catch Information Assurance Scholarship for students and a grant from the National Science Foundation to support women and minorities in cybersecurity.

IUP continues to be known nationally and internationally for its work and expertise in cyber defense. Most recently, IUP Chief Information Officer Bill Balint coordinated a cybersecurity track, the first time in the history of the 19-year program, for the Annual Health, Safety, Security, and Environment Conference and Exhibition sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago. IUP faculty and administrators were invited presenters for the conference, “Managing Risk in Economic Uncertainty,” which drew more than 300 professionals from the business community, public sector, regulatory agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.

IUP was recognized in a 2014 national survey of “Best Schools for Cybersecurity” by HP Enterprise Security, released in October 2015. The university was ranked in the top 25 percent of all cybersecurity programs in the nation. Only four Pennsylvania colleges and universities were rated in the top quartile.

IUP also is a National Cyber Security Alliance “Champion,” recognized by the National Cyber Security Alliance.