Marquette cybersecurity specialization catches national attention


Thomas Kaczmarek is the director of the Center for Cyber Security Awareness and Cyber Defense and said the department had to go through an accreditation process with Homeland Security and NSA.

Marquette University was recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. National Security Agency as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense in 2018.

This recognition was attributed to the university offering a specialization in information assurance and cyber defense for students pursuing a Master of Science in computing.  

Debbie Perouli, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, said Marquette is the only accredited university to offer the specialization at the master’s level.

“This is obviously very good for Marquette to get this national attention,” Perouli said. “There are only so many centers in the country and this is the only center in Wisconsin.”

She said it showcases that Marquette is doing solid work in cyber defense education, adding that it creates more opportunities for students to receive scholarships and student awards from organizations such as the National Science Foundation.

Thomas Kaczmarek, director of the Center for Cyber Security Awareness and Cyber Defense, said the department had to go through an accreditation process with Homeland Security and the NSA.

“We had to show them our curriculum and talk about how the campus views cybersecurity,” Kaczmarek said.

Kaczmarek said after analyzing and changing the curriculum as well as creating the Center for Cyber Security Awareness and Cyber Defense, the accreditation took about a year to complete. 

“Cybersecurity is a domain that has attracted a lot of attention recently,” Perouli said. “Mostly because we need the skilled workers and we do not have them, (which) is true for all domains in the workforce.”

Kaczmarek said various agencies are predicting there will be a shortage of approximately 2 million people in the cybersecurity field within the next several years.

“There is a tremendous need for people with qualifications to protect critical infrastructures … (like) banking system, transportation, water, power (and) communications,” Kaczmarek said. “Because if something happens to those, we are pretty much crippled.”

John Austin, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, is considering pursuing cyber security. 

“There is a growing need for students going into software related fields, especially cybersecurity,” Austin said. “Technology is rapidly growing and evolving (and) as a result, it is becoming more ingrained in every part of our society.”

Kaczmarek said cybersecurity is a threat to us on a daily basis.

“We’ve become so digitized,” Kaczmarek said. “We all rely on computers and things that need to be available, secure and assure that information is reliably managed.”

Kaczmarek said cybersecurity is not simply about stealing, which people typically think is the case.

“Cyber attacks are becoming a bigger concern as more of our infrastructure is being built around technology,” Austin said. “It is important that our government, businesses and individuals are protected (and) I am glad Marquette is doing its part to help this situation by preparing students for this reality.”

“Come, come to join the program,” Perouli said. “The cybersecurity field has a lot of opportunities  for students and it is an interdisciplinary area.”