The pandemic forced North Carolina Central University to launch classes in a new “cybersecurity lab” in avirtual environment rather than in person. The undergrad business school program is a first of its kind in the UNC System.
The Computer Information Systems program offers three concentrations including cybersecurity, data analytics and information communication and technology.
There’s a worldwide demand for the skill, says business school dean Anthony Nelson. He said, “Over the next 10 years, there will be approximately a 30% increase in employment in cybersecurity.” Nelson added that high demand promises big paychecks. “The median salary is approximately $95,000,” he said.
The school built and equipped a $300,000 lab for classes inside the university’s business school building.
The pandemic forced a temporary change in instruction plans. “Of course we’ve gone from about 10% online learning to 95%.”
Students are challenged with a variety of cyberattack scenarios. They learn how to enter the cyber world in order to protect business networks from digital threats.
“They can learn to actually get into a network, look at the routers, how to set firewalls, even learn a little hacking,” said Karen Schnell, who teaches the class.
She says “ethical” hacking helps students learn how to beat criminal hackers.
News of the business school-based program is attracting interest from across the state, the region and within the university. “Students are switching majors,” said associate professor of computer information systems Donna Grant.
Grant says it represents a huge opportunity for under-represented students at the historically black college. “I think it’s just a win-win when we talk about diversity and inclusion and the whole cybersecurity and data analytics area,” said Grant.
The timing of the pandemic created another first for the school. School leaders say it’s the first to actually launch their cybersecurity program in a virtual environment, which will be a valuable asset as student demand for the study expands.