By: Vee Glessner

Beginning in Fall 2018, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus will be offering a new degree program: a Master’s in Cyber Security and Intelligence Studies.

The in-depth process for creating a new degree program started back in 2015 with the suggestion that the institution offer another MS, and gained momentum from there. 

According to Dr. Jon C. Haass, Associate Professor and Chair of the Cyber Intelligence and Security Department, initiating a new program involves several steps.

The department chair and dean agree to pursue development, and then Campus Leadership evaluates the proposal.

“At this point, an executive summary is presented by the Dean to the University President, Dr. Butler. If all these are in alignment, the next stage of development begins,” said Haass. 

This next stage evaluates the financial aspects of implementation, including how many students are expected to enroll, changes in faculty (including addition of staff), student employees, and the expenses associated such as supplies and materials. 

Next, the program is evaluated from an academic standpoint: a preliminary curricula is drafted, including the number of courses and credits required for graduation, and outlines of schedules, both for individual courses and the academic year.

“At this point it is critical we look at the competition,” said Haass. He elaborated by asking, “What are other colleges and universities offering? How will ERAU compete?” 

These types of questions push the development team to look at the future of their graduates, including career market expectations.

“At present,” according to Haass, “we are expected to need more workers in the field with BS and MS degrees than all of the programs in the country can possibly produce.”  

Encouraging results from financial, academic, and career-planning standpoints made the proposal a success with the Academic Committee of the Board of Trustees and subsequently earn the go-ahead from the State of Arizona to advertise and enroll students in the new program.  

Cyber Security will become the third MS program offered by the campus, and a natural extension of various undergraduate programs in the Global Security and Intelligence Studies (GSIS) fields.

Most incoming students will have a background in mathematics, computer science, and/or cyber security.

“An undergraduate from our own programs of software engineering, cyber intelligence and security will be an obvious fit if they performed well in their major,” said Haass, who recommends the MS to career-oriented students interested in senior positions in a company or government. 

Of course, the process has not been without its challenges. “Creating something new requires working through any questions that might arise regarding the ability to develop something of value to the students and the campus,” said Haass.

He added, “How will we explain our specific niche? What advantages can ERAU Prescott provide?” 

Advantages of the Cyber Security program at ERAU include a small, hands-on, and project-based environment that prepares students for career and industry.

Part of preparing students for their careers is internships and engagement with industry partners, including big names like Symantec, Boeing, Raytheon, and more. 

“There are numerous companies I’ve worked with for years on the Bachelor’s side I’m now bringing on board to be part of this Masters program,” said Haass.

Their involvement in the new degree program not only gives students a taste of what to expect in the field, but is mutually beneficial for the companies, as well. 

“Bachelors students can do a small project,” said Haass. “They might have a semester and a limited set of skills.

Masters students could get started potentially in their first semester and end up working on a project for over a year, even two years.

From the point of view of a partner, they’re a much more valuable asset,” he continued. 

There are still quite a few bridges to cross before the hard launch in the fall.

ERAU is still looking for another faculty member to support the Cyber Security Masters, receiving applications for the fall semester, and coordinating efforts between admissions, records, financial aid, and more teams on campus to bring the new degree to fruition. 

Considering anticipated demand for graduates in the GSIS fields, the Security and Intelligence faculty expect that this new program is just the beginning.

One faculty member noted that, “Just as the campus in general, growth is to improve the environment and offer a greater diversity of opportunities, not just to be bigger!  Already the GSIS programs is one of the most diverse degrees on campus.” 

Looking to the future, the College of Security and Intelligence has big dreams.

The faculty want to “reach out to attract more women into the field” and are committed to “demonstrating that this is a promising area for those that are curious, able to work in a team and excellent communicators,” according to Haass. 

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