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UMass launches $4.2 million CyberCorps Scholarships for Service Program

(Yuri Samoilov/Flickr)

(Yuri Samoilov/Flickr)

The University of Massachusetts received a $4.2 million federal grant that will partially fund the education of 28 students pursuing careers in cybersecurity in exchange for up to two years of their service at a government agency.

The grant, which is awarded by the National Science Foundation, will establish the CyberCorps Scholarships for Service Program and expand advanced courses in cybersecurity at UMass. The CyberCorps program is a partner program between the NSF and Homeland Security designed to develop cybersecurity programs on college campuses and recruit future specialists.

“The program enables students to pursue their interests in cybersecurity from a variety of disciplines. This includes coursework and research that will help place them in a federal, state, local or tribal government position related to cybersecurity,” said Brian Levine, a professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences and primary researcher of the program.

The program will fund 28 students for the next five years, including full tuition and fees, as well as $9,000 toward health costs, books, and professional development, and a stipend of $22,500 for undergraduates and $34,000 for graduate students. Accepted applicants can receive up to two years of support in exchange for future work at a government institution’s cybersecurity department.

Recruitment will focus on women and underrepresented minorities; the first class of accepted applicants will arrive on campus in fall of 2016. Graduated students will go on to governmental organizations affiliated with the protection of national security and critical infrastructure such as utilities, water treatment and military defense systems.

This includes the FBI, National Institute of Health, Center for Disease Control and federal state and local agencies. Students also can work in national laboratories conducting cybersecurity research or be a high school teacher educating students in cybersecurity.

Levine states that students are eligible to apply from the College of Information and Computer Sciences, College of Engineering, the Isenberg School of Management as well as from the Mathematics and Statistics Department.

The academic requirements vary for different backgrounds. For example, undergraduates in computer science must complete the Security and Privacy track, and undergraduates in electrical and computer engineering must complete a capstone related to security. For graduate students, their research and coursework must focus on security.

Prospective recipients must satisfy demanding requirements of the program such as a higher GPA, internships, involvement in certain professional development activities and have the ability to obtain a secret clearance. Per the congressional legislation that funds the grant, the program is limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

“One of the challenges we will face as implementers of this program is undertaking a multidisciplinary project across the different colleges in the students’ best interests,” Levine said. “ Security is one of the few cross-cutting fields that is of interest to so many of the colleges across campus.”

He adds it is very different than taking on a narrowly focused program within a single discipline.

In addition, some of the funds of the program will be used to develop classes, seminars and talks at UMass, related to the field. They will be available to all UMass students and not just to the scholarship winners.

“We are currently setting up a website about the program with application materials for the upcoming fall 2016 semester, that should be up and running in two to three weeks,” Levine said.

Tanaya M. Asnani can be reached at tasnani@umass.edu.

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