Prof. Waleed Farag

Waleed Farag, professor of computer science and director of IUP’s Institute for Cyber Security, was an invited participant for a roundtable discussion with Jake Braun, acting principal deputy national cyber director in the Office of the National Cyber Director, on cybersecurity and workforce development.

The event was cohosted by the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Partner4Work, and Pitt Cyber on December 11, 2023, at the University of Pittsburgh.

“It was my pleasure to be invited to participate in this round table with Mr. Jake Braun, the deputy director of the White House Office of the National Cyber Director,” Farag said.

“Such an invitation was a natural continuation of the recent collaboration between the IUP Institute for Cyber Security and several members of the ONCD, including the director of cyber education, Mr. Albert Palacios. In that meeting, I, along with several colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University, discussed our ongoing efforts and initiatives in support of the WH National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy.”

According to a news release from the White House, the roundtable event continues the Biden-Harris administration’s National Cyber Workforce Education Roadshow, part of an initiative “focused on the importance of public-private partnerships in order to bring more good-paying, middle-class jobs in cybersecurity to the people of Pennsylvania.”

IUP is one of the first institutions in the nation to receive the Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense designation by the National Security Agency, IUP has held that designation since 2002, and is one of only 16 universities in Pennsylvania with this designation.

Waleed Farag with the cybersecurity roundtable participants, pictured third from left (against the left wall)

The IUP cybersecurity program has about 100 students enrolled, and about 20 students annually complete the program and receive their bachelor’s degree in the Computer Science/Cybersecurity Track. IUP’s program also focuses on cybercrime detection, loss prevention, and how to collect the evidence to prosecute cybersecurity offenders.

Over the last six years, Farag has secured nearly $3 million through a Department of Defense program that has provided 50 full scholarships to students in IUP’s cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program. Part of the scholarship opportunity is a guaranteed position with the Department of Defense after graduation.

In 2023, Farag secured $996,350 from the Department of Defense to establish a pilot summer immersion program for cybersecurity students to develop language foundations and proficiency in Chinese; IUP is the only school in the nation chosen to develop the program. Farag is the project director.

With the 2023 Chinese Language Pilot Summer Program, IUP’s Institute for Cyber Security, founded in 2005 to further encourage and promote cybersecurity at IUP and the surrounding community, has secured more than $17 million in federal funding for IUP-sponsored initiatives and programs since 2016.

This $17 million in funding includes $4.98 million from the Department of Defense for the first three years of a novel project to enhance cybersecurity and STEM education in Pennsylvania (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), received in September 2022, the largest single grant that has ever been awarded to IUP. The project period of performance is expected to be six years with a total funding of about $11 million.

This $17 million in funding also includes more than $1 million in federal funding for IUP to enhance cybersecurity training for middle school students and teachers through the GenCyber program. More than 550 middle school students and teachers have completed GenCyber camps since 2016.

In October 2022, IUP received $203,130 from the National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program that is managed by the National Security Agency to support a qualified student seeking a doctoral degree (PhD) in cybersecurity.

The initiative, spanning September 2022 through September 2024, is designed to address the national shortage of qualified cybersecurity instructors at National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity colleges and universities, “to bridge the gap of qualified cybersecurity instructors at NCAE-C institutions,” Farag said.

In 2017, a team of faculty at IUP led by Farag received a grant of $212,000 from the National Security Agency to enhance cybersecurity education in western Pennsylvania. The team included faculty from the departments of Computer Science, English, Professional Studies in Education, and Political Science and from students at IUP.