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Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program personalizes support for students pursuing in-demand careers

Nov 28, 2023

What makes us a better place to come than any other university is that we're going to prepare you to lead and to serve, said ... “What makes us a better place to come than any other university is that we're going to prepare you to lead and to serve,” said Isak Nti Asare, co-director of the IU Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program. “If you're the type of person who wants to come and get tech skills and then go and make the world a better place, this is the place to be.” Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University

Indiana University is preparing students to fulfill the increasing need for a specialized cybersecurity workforce.

IU’s Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program, a joint degree between the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering and the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, helps students hone a unique set of skills while receiving highly personalized attention and resources, forming a pathway toward their desired careers. The interdisciplinary program combines technical instruction in cybersecurity alongside the study of government policy and global languages and cultures.

Since it was launched four years ago, the Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program has grown to include nearly 200 students. Ranked in the country’s top 25 cybersecurity undergraduate programs, it receives upwards of 300 applications each year, signaling that it will continue its upward trajectory.

Demand for highly skilled cybersecurity professionals is growing twice as fast as the workforce, according to recent studies. It is estimated that there are more than 500,000 open cybersecurity positions in the U.S. alone. The threat of cyberattacks on both private and public sectors has created growing demand for graduates entering the workforce to think about cybersecurity from a variety of disciplines and viewpoints.

The program is co-led by Isak Nti Asare, assistant dean for undergraduate affairs in the Hamilton Lugar School, and Jean Camp, professor of informatics in the Luddy School. One of their top priorities is to ensure students in the Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program are set up for success.

Isak Nti Asare, co-director of the Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program, said the program attracts students who have a desire to serve... Isak Nti Asare, co-director of the Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program, said the program attracts students who have a desire to serve their communities. Photo by Wendi Chitwood, Indiana University

“We offer customized support for every single one of our students,” Asare said. “We have students who are here saying ‘I want to work for a particular government agency,’ or they’re trying to work as consultants, or as cyber analysts. From day one, the first meeting I have with students begins with ‘Let’s make a customized four-year plan.’

“We want students to be able to start creating very clear pathways. ‘If you have this end goal in mind, let’s build that resume so that you’re a prime candidate for that position.’”

IU Bloomington senior Kathryn Riordan is one example of how offering individualized support sets students on a clear pathway toward success.

Riordan, raised in Columbus, Indiana, had her pick of colleges across the country. She chose IU because of the unique Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program. She had support from faculty before her freshman year even began, receiving a call from Asare to discuss her goals and the resources that would help her achieve them.

Asare said he recognized that Riordan was capable of accomplishing great things, and he encouraged her to apply for the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship. Riordan became one of 15 students in the U.S. to be selected as a FAIT Fellow in 2022. In addition to receiving up to $75,000 in academic funding, she recently completed a summer internship at the State Department in Washington, D.C., and will soon be stationed at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

During her summer internship, Riordan worked with the State Department’s Office of eDiplomacy in the Diplomatic Innovation Division. She said she strengthened her skills in project management, explored civil and foreign service career opportunities, and built interpersonal relationships, among other things.

IU Bloomington senior Kathryn Riordan stands in the hall of flags inside the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C., during her sum... IU Bloomington senior Kathryn Riordan stands in the hall of flags inside the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C., during her summer internship. Riordan was one of 15 students nationwide selected to be in the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Riordan

“These interactions were one of my favorite parts of the summer,” Riordan said. “Meeting people working in the role made me more excited for life in the Foreign Service as I began to see myself in scenarios they described.”

As the Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program continues to grow, so do the opportunities offered to its students.

Asare said that, like Riordan, students who enter the program tend to share a desire to serve their nation. Public service is built into the program. The IU Cybersecurity Clinic, of which Asare is the executive director, provides pro bono cybersecurity assistance to critical public infrastructure and community organizations, including nonprofits, hospitals, municipalities, local government agencies and small businesses.

Graduate students who participate in the clinic receive practical experience while serving local communities, but a $500,000 grant from Google will soon help the clinic expand and include undergraduates. It will also provide mentorship from Google employees and scholarships for students to obtain any Google professional certification.

In addition to the Cybersecurity Clinic, students have opportunities to work with high-level stakeholders in the Department of Defense to solve real-world innovation and research issues through the Hacking 4 Defense program. This program of the National Security Innovation Network is offered to IU students through a collaboration between the Hamilton Lugar and Luddy schools.

Asare said that a new course has also been launched in response to the increasing importance of micro credentials and professional certifications for college graduates. In the course, students prepare for the external examination to earn a global CompTIA Security + certification, which validates the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions and pursue a cybersecurity career. The certification is highly sought after by organizations seeking entry-level professionals.

Similar programs and certification courses are currently in the works as the program continues to grow. Asare said he is excited for the future of the program.

“Our emphasis is on student success,” Asare said. “What makes us a better place to come than any other university is that we’re going to prepare you to lead and to serve. If you’re the type of person who wants to come and get tech skills and then go and make the world a better place, this is the place to be.”

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Julia Hodson

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