Leading the Way in Cybersecurity Education

CIS Department Receives Reaccreditation from Federal Government

Professor Manson accepting his certificate

Cal Poly Pomona has been named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense education, an honor that the university has received for the past nine years.

Since its initial designation, the university has quickly become a leader in cybersecurity education, earning the respect of government officials, industry leaders and national news media. Notable achievements include working with other colleges to generate $4.4 million in National Science Foundation grants as well as raising $750,000 in private donations to directly fund Cal Poly Pomona projects. The university also mentors more than 1,000 Los Angeles Unified School district students and has become a top destination for recruiters seeking talented cybersecurity graduates.

The designation is granted by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and covers academic years 2014 through 2021. The College of Business Administration’s Computer Information Systems department and its Center for Information Assurance oversee cybersecurity education and outreach.

Mark Weatherford, former deputy undersecretary for Cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has collaborated with CIS Professor Dan Manson for several years.

“Dr. Manson has established Cal Poly Pomona as one of the elite universities in America and its Center for Information Assurance is a national leader in cybersecurity education, outreach and workforce development,” says Weatherford who is now principal at The Chertoff Group. “Being recertified as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Education is a huge honor and extremely well-deserved.”

Having a nationally recognized cybersecurity program provides significant benefits to students. CIS students who have internships and are involved in cybersecurity competitions often receive multiple job offers before they graduate.

CIS alumnus Morian Eberhard is someone who recruits Cal Poly Pomona students. He is the deputy chief information security officer for Union Bank, a member of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group that is the sixth largest bank in the world. When he was ready to expand his global cybersecurity operations center, his first stop was Cal Poly Pomona.

“If you think about professional basketball players, they can’t just study basketball theory and be expected to know how to play,” Eberhard says. “At Cal Poly Pomona, students get the ball in their hands and play on the court. By the time they step out of school they know what to do. I love that.”

When Cal Poly Pomona was first named a Center of Academic Excellence in 2005, it was only one of three institutions in the state to receive the designation and among a select number of universities to offer a cybersecurity career track. Manson and other CIS professors quickly realized that offering cutting-edge courses at Cal Poly Pomona wasn’t enough. They had to get children excited about cybersecurity before they walked onto a college campus. They also had to train teachers and offer professional development opportunities to ensure that graduates’ skills remained relevant.

That’s why Manson and the Center for Information Assurance have created a comprehensive education and outreach program that they call “K to Gray.” The program will continue its LAUSD outreach efforts and expand its mentoring to elementary school pupils as well as encourage Cal Poly Pomona veterans to pursue tech careers.

The center also will bolster efforts to enhance workforce development through certification. In June, CIS Assistant Professor Ron Pike organized an on-campus event that enabled more than 100 high school and community college instructors to receive certifications from Cisco, Linux Professional Institute and others. Pike is also encouraging students to sit for certification tests before they graduate.

“We’re second to none in putting out career-ready cybersecurity graduates,” Manson says. “I’m also proud that we’ve shown others that partnerships between academic and industry can be very successful. There’s more work to de done and I look forward to seeing our successes through 2021.”