Two recent grants awarded to Brookdale Community College this semester will provide more opportunities for students to acquire skills in cybersecurity and networking, two related fields with burgeoning job opportunities. One grant includes scholarships and stipends for four Brookdale students to collaborate with their colleagues at two other community colleges.
“These two grants create a pathway for more students interested in cybersecurity to gain the hands-on training so valued by employers through virtual labs and networking opportunities crucial to career development,” said Professor Mike Qaissaunee who chairs the Engineering and Technology Department at Brookdale Community College. “Students gain a highly marketable degree, incur no debt and through the networking and research opportunities gain valuable experience in government service,” said Qaissaunee. “This foundation will help them advance their careers in the public sector or a career in private industry after they complete their service.”
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Community College Cyber Pilot (C3P) represents the extension of an existing program to community colleges for the first time. The program awards scholarships to students pursuing associate degrees or specialized program certifications in the field of cybersecurity, with an emphasis on veterans and underrepresented STEM populations.
Brookdale students will participate with their counterparts from Sinclair Community College in Ohio and Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. The three-year, $2.3 million grant among the three institutions provides for research and student skills competitions, certification preparation workshops, faculty-student mentorship and visits to state and federal agencies. In exchange for full-tuition and a $22,500 yearly stipend, participants are required to work for a state or federal agency for two years.
The 2018-2019 academic year is the first year of the C3P program and focuses on laying the foundation for curriculum, recruiting and research. The 2019-2020 academic year is the formal start of the program. Prospective and current Brookdale students may begin applying for the scholarship program now.
The second grant to Brookdale for $95,000 from the United States Department of Education’s Pilot Program for Cybersecurity Education Technological Upgrades will enable the institution to purchase and install equipment to host a virtual lab environment for training and to explore further course additions to the curriculum. The virtual labs provide a safe and customizable learning platform and environment for students and faculty research. Brookdale expanded its curriculum to add courses in computer forensics, ethical hacking and other areas under prior NSF grants and expects the virtual lab to be in place for summer 2019.
Qaissaunee, a Union, NJ resident, is the institution’s lead on the two grants. He joined Brookdale’s faculty in 1997 and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delaware. He has obtained four NSF grants for Brookdale in cybersecurity and using technology to improve learning access and outcomes. He is a frequent speaker at conferences nationwide on adopting new technologies for teaching and wireless security.