Elmhurst U. Named a CyberPatriot Center of Excellence

August 24, 2023 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Students sitting by computers

The U.S. Air Force Association, a non-profit professional military association that supports the Air Force, recently designated Elmhurst University a CyberPatriot Center of Excellence. 

The award means that Elmhurst has demonstrated excellence and exceptional commitment to advancing STEM and cybersecurity education, and to promoting the goals of the association’s CyberPatriot program. As the nation’s largest youth cyber education program, the CyberPatriot program is the Air Force Association’s major STEM initiative dedicated to strengthening cyber skills among American youth.

Dean Jensen, assistant professor in Elmhurst University’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS) and head of Elmhurst’s cybersecurity program, said Centers of Excellence are recognized for their efforts in training students to become skilled in various aspects of cybersecurity work. This includes gaining hands-on experience during CyberPatriot competitions, when teams of students are challenged to find and fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Jensen’s involvement in CyberPatriot began in 2014, when York Community High School students interested in participating in a CyberPatriot competition approached the University in search of a sponsoring educator. Jensen stepped in and remains the Elmhurst Cyber Club’s technical mentor and president.

Jensen’s time with the club and the CyberPatriot competition provided him with valuable experience and insights as the CSIS department was developing the bachelor of science program in cybersecurity, which launched in the fall of 2020. Jensen hopes the recognition as a CyberPatriot Center of Excellence will help advance the cybersecurity program even further.

“Becoming a Center of Excellence will hopefully mean more resources are invested in the cyber program at Elmhurst,” he said. He and his colleague David Brown, assistant professor in CSIS, recently received an Elmhurst Innovation Grant for $31,000 to help develop a “Cyber Range” on campus. Both Elmhurst and York students will be able to use the range to build their cybersecurity skills.

Jensen said the University is planning to host an Air Force Association CyberCamp next summer for high school students interested in cybersecurity. During the camp, Elmhurst cybersecurity students will have an opportunity to participate as counselors and mentors.

Other benefits of being a Center of Excellence, he said, include eligibility for student grants and internships; hardware and software grants; and regional and national media attention from the CyberPatriot program.

“I am exceptionally proud that Elmhurst has been awarded this distinguished designation, as it is confirmation that we are doing things right when it comes to our cybersecurity education,” he said, adding that the designation could be a steppingstone to the even higher designation of Center of Academic Excellence, which is given by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security in Cyber Defense.

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