Dr. Ross Brittain taking cyber security

PHILIPPI — Alderson Broaddus University announced cybersecurity as its newest undergraduate major Thursday.

The program will prepare students for the multidisciplinary aspects of securing software, networks, web and mobile systems.

Dr. Ross Brittain, dean of the College of Science, Technology & Mathematics, said when President Tim Barry approached him about the program, he immediately reached out to the computer science faculty.

“We noted the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics predicted more than 25,000 job openings in cybersecurity in 2024,” he said. “That was before all of the high-profile cyber attacks on Target, EquiFax and the 2015 presidential election.”

The core requirements of the cybersecurity program will give students important foundational software programming skills that complement their training in securing software, network and internet systems in a variety of business applications, Brittain said.

“The elective courses in the cybersecurity program allow the students to focus their skills on critical industries vital to the importance of West Virginia and the nation such a health, retail and financial data, as well as digital forensics,” he said.

“Students are required to complete a capstone to get their bachelor’s degree as evidence that they’re ready to successfully enter the workforce.”

Brittain mentioned the capstone could be an internship, research project or successful completion of the CompTIA Security+ certification.

“AB created the University Alliance Advisory Board composed of industry representatives to help us create and develop this new program,” he said. “The University Alliance Advisory Board validated the demand for cybersecurity jobs and also our draft of the program curriculum. They also made significant contributions to the final form of the program, such as including an associate’s degree option and recognizing the critical need for system administration skills.

Barry said at first he didn’t realize the capacity of different corporations in the area in regards to cybersecurity.

“The cry and demand, 25,000 jobs annually are needed in cybersecurity,” he said. “I think, quite frankly, we’re in the right place at the right institution at this particular time.”

Joan Propst, provost/executive vice president for academic affairs, said it’s important to note the rapidity in which they met a need. The program speaks to how nimble private education can be to industry demands.

“Our faculty have the expertise in this field and have worked arduously to put together a major that will serve our students and prepare graduates in a field where the demand is increasing,” Propst said. “In the development of the curriculum, we met with leaders in industry and have created a powerful advisory board of representatives from law enforcement, health care and the computer science industry; their input into the program has been invaluable, and we will continue that relationship as we continue to evolve this program to meet these demands.”

Propst also mentioned that while the undergraduate program won’t begin until the spring, they are now offering a cybersecurity minor for those who are already enrolled in a different program.