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A class of their own: First group of JBLM cyber sleuths receive diplomas at UW Tacoma

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:39PM June 19th, 2014
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Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

UW Tacoma Master of Cybersecurity and Leadership program graduate Maureen Bridie Carroll (third from left) listens to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the commencement speaker.

Two years ago the Masters in Cybersecurity and Leadership class at the University of Washington Tacoma was just a thought written on a piece of paper.

“It was an idea that was generated from a couple of Intel employees, one of whom was working at the Air National Guard at (Joint Base Lewis-McChord), the other was a member of our advisory board,” Rob Friedman, director of Institute of Technology at UWT, said. A year later, the masters program was launched and on June 9, 27 students, active and retired service members, received advanced degrees during a hooding ceremony.

“I’ve been dreaming about this graduation day for two years,” Dr. Bryan Goda, MCL program director, said during the ceremony. “I was told, ‘Oh you can’t create a new program and get it done in a year,’ and I said, ‘Watch me. I’ll get this done.’”

The program was launched in partnership with the Washington National Guard Cyber Security Unit at Camp Murray.

According to John Burkhardt, associate director of communications at UWT, it is one of only two such degree programs in the U.S. that combines leadership and cyber security training. Of the 27 graduates, 60 percent are active-duty and retired military.

Major Edgar Aquino of the Washington Air National Guard said the program is directly correlated to his job as the chief of Missions System for the Western Air Defense Sector.

“I have a lot of years (of) practical experience with the military doing cyber security,” Aquino said. “When this program came along, it was just a natural fit for what I’ve done professionally for the last two years and what I am doing now.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says information-security jobs are expected to grow 37 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the all other occupations.

“The great thing is cyber security is ubiquitous in the commercial world and in the military world,” Aquino said. “We all use Microsoft computers and Cisco routers, and we all are using iPhones and Blackberrys, and no matter where you are the security principals are the same.”

Army National Guard Capt. Sameer Puri said he took the program to add to his computer science master’s degree and enhance his computing skills.

“Cyber security is a huge thing, especially in the civilian sector (and) how it’s impacting different businesses,” Puri said. “I still have two more years left with the Army National Guard, so I will complete my commitment of 20 years and maybe after that I will look into something in the cyber security area.”

First Sergeant Calvin Flinta already was putting his degree to work as he prepared to head to Dallas for a job interview with the FBI as a digital forensics technician.

“It’s a full course load that’s crammed into a year.” Flinta said.

Friedman said applications are being accepted for the fall 2014 class, but registrations appear competitive.

“We have 50 applications and we want a class of 30,” he said.

Anyone interested in the program should visit www.tacoma.uw.edu/institute-technology/cybersecurity-leadership for more information.