Town & Gown: JSU continues to lead in cybersecurity


By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations as JSU

With the fast-paced technology of our 21st century world, it is no wonder that cybersecurity, also known as information assurance or security, is in high demand and has become a rapidly growing field of study. Recognized in 2008 by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, Jacksonville State University has been keeping pace with this realm of study by offering students cutting edge technology and the knowledge to equip them in the workplace.

JSU’s Center for Information Security and Assurance (CISA) “provides a venue for research and education in the various fields of cybersecurity,” according to the founding director of CISA, Dr. Guillermo A. Francia, III. In addition to eighteen years experience teaching computer science at JSU, Dr. Francia has been researching and instructing about cybersecurity since 2002.

On September 27, 2012, in its effort to provide students with the best information assurance education possible, JSU’s CISA brought Thomas Madden, Chief Information Security Officer of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) in Atlanta, Georgia, to inform students about cybersecurity and tell some of his personal experience working with America’s security in the Defense Nuclear Agency. A two-time JSU alumnus, Madden graduated with his B.S. in Business Administration and a M.P.A. in Political Science. Madden has 52 people who work for him and the CDCP currently has about 12,000 employers now. According to Madden, “CDCP is a lot like JSU-everyone knows what everyone is doing.”

Madden warned students about the very present threat of identity theft in today’s world of technology. Besides discussing current threats present in the realm of cybersecurity, Madden gave students advice on pursuing government jobs. Madden was able to share relative information with students to assist them in their computer science studies and job pursuits. He advised students to visit to find out more information about landing a government job and even gave students his personal e-mail address should they have any questions he could answer. For students interested in working a government job, Pathways is a new scholarship program designed to pay for a student’s education on the condition that the student will work for the government for an agreed upon period of time. Madden also suggests for computer majors to do an internship or temporary contract job for either the government or a business to work towards their dream job.

In addition to providing students with the opportunity to learn from cybersecurity experts like Madden, JSU’s computer science department, as a designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, allows computer assurance majors the opportunity to compete for “prestigious scholarships awarded by the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation annually,” according to Dr. Francia. He explains that, “In addition to their diploma, our graduates receive two cybersecurity professional certificates which are fully endorsed by NSA and DHS.” Earning a computer science degree from JSU, as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, gives students an edge when searching for a job and makes their degree more marketable.

Various grants have been awarded to JSU’s computer science department since its recognition in 2008. However, according to Dr. Francia, the most recent grant awarded to JSU from the Department of Defense “funds a cybersecurity outreach program and the creation of game-based cybersecurity awareness training programs.”

According to Department Head for Technology and Engineering Terry Marbut, JSU students are reaping benefits in the early stages of receiving this grant. He states, “The grant has already provided opportunities for our students to gain practical experiences relating to their degree program and we anticipate more opportunities even beyond the time period of the grant. It also allows our faculty members access to the latest in controls technology so that they can remain current in the field.”

By accomplishing this, Dr. Francia is optimistic that JSU can take its programs “to the next level.”

For more information about JSU’s Center for Information Security and Assurance, click here

This article first appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville Times.