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NSA Designates UTEP as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Operations

The University of Texas at El Paso recently earned recognition as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Operations. The designation from the National Security Agency is for academic years 2016–21.

The prestigious classification requires institutions to meet highly rigorous academic and programmatic criteria. There are only 16 designated CAEs across the U.S., and UTEP is one of two in Texas.

“UTEP is pleased to be recognized by the NSA as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio.

“This designation validates our success in developing highly competitive programs that prepare students to address some of the most important challenges in computer science and national security.  This new NSA-CAE designation will enable our Department of Computer Science to expand its successful efforts to engage students in work at the forefront of cyber-security,” Natalicio added.

The NSA CAE-Cyber Operations designation complements UTEP’s existing designation as a CAE in Cyber Defense.  The NSA Cyber Operations program aligns with the President’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE): Building a Digital Nation, and furthers the goal of broadening the pipeline of skilled workers capable of supporting a cyber-secure nation.

The program identifies institutions offering a curriculum that is deeply technical, interdisciplinary, and firmly grounded in computer science and engineering with extensive opportunities for hands-on applications through labs and exercises. In addition, it provides a particular emphasis on technologies and techniques in specialized cyber operations to enhance the security posture of the nation.

These technologies are critical to intelligence, military and law enforcement organizations authorized to perform such specialized operations.

This designation is specifically focused on the Secure Cyber-Systems concentration in the B.S. in Computer Science program in UTEP’s College of Engineering.

The NSA Cyber Operations program review committee evaluated UTEP’s computer science faculty as highly qualified and invested in conducting research related to cyber operations, and determined that the undergraduate curriculum is organized to impart to students the deep technical knowledge and skills needed to support a cyber-secure nation.

The new designation highlights the work done by the department to integrate cyber-security concepts into research, education, outreach and student extra-curricular activities. In collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Lab, the department has hosted several cyber-security hands-on workshops in which students learn how to tackle such problems.

The designation also aligns with one of University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven’s eight “Quantum Leaps” – a cornerstone of his vision for the UT System – focused on national security. According to McRaven, the UT System is uniquely positioned to establish itself as a leader in national security, because within its institutions are great minds thinking and working on national security problems.

The UT System institutions have more than 40 centers and institutes focusing on cybersecurity, bioterrorism, policy and statecraft and other national security issues. The national security Quantum Leap will establish the UT Network for National Security, uniting these efforts to create a systemwide alliance, which will address the most vexing national security problems.

“UT El Paso has one of the nation’s top cyber security programs and its graduates are going to be on the front lines of combatting threats to national security,” McRaven said. “This designation is indicative of the very critical role UTEP – and higher education as whole – can and should have in protecting our nation.”

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