Mason ranked No. 1 nationally in Cybersecurity Talent Discovery

July 8, 2019   /   by John Hollis

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George Mason University has been recognized as a Cyber FastTrack National “Top Tier College” that is the best in the nation in Cybersecurity Talent Discovery.

Mason recently topped a nationwide Cyber FastTrack field of 5,200 U.S. colleges for the honor, with a contest-best 312 students discovering their aptitude for cybersecurity careers through a competition sponsored by the SANS Technology Institute. Cyber FastTrack is a free online program for college students and graduates that was designed by world leaders in cybersecurity and backed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and 24 other U.S. governors in the hopes of closing the nation’s cyber skills gap with China and Russia.

Southern Arkansas University’s Main Campus, Austin Peay State University, Michigan State University and Old Dominion University rounded out the top five finishers.

“It is an honor for our university to receive this notice,” said Peggy S. Brouse, a professor within Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering and the director of the nation’s first Bachelor of Science Cyber Security Engineering program. “We have worked very hard in VSE to have superior programs and research in cybersecurity.”

Mason’s Bachelor of Science Cyber Security Engineering program launched in spring 2015, with 28 students graduating three years later. The program has since expanded to nearly 400 students, Brouse said.

“The leadership shown by George Mason University is commendable,” said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute. “Without the talent being discovered in Cyber FastTrack, shortages of elite talent will put the United States at a severe disadvantage in protecting power systems, financial systems and military systems in times of conflict and protecting businesses and personal privacy in peace time. George Mason University has set a high bar for other schools in Virginia and in the nation.”

Students from all disciplines are encouraged to enroll in the Cyber FastTrack program. Through the program’s online challenges, quizzes, exams and tutorials, students learn disciplines such as forensics, intrusion detection, security operations, system and network penetration testing and application penetration testing.

The highest performing students were awarded Cyber Honors Academy Scholarships for free training at the SANS Institute. Another 200 well-performing students each received $500 in scholarships toward college tuition.

Plans are already underway at Mason to add a Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering component to enhance the undergraduate program.

“Because of the importance of cybersecurity in our country,” Brouse said, “I don’t see any limit to the popularity and expansion of the program.”