Tuskegee University Receives $2.86 Million Grant from NSF to Strengthen National Cybersecurity Workforce

Courtesy of Tuskegee University

Tuskegee University is proud to announce the renewal of a substantial grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), totaling $2,863,511, to support the Tuskegee University CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service (SFS) program and the Cyber Bridge program, aimed at non-computer science majors. This grant will fund these initiatives over the next five years, fostering the development of qualified and well-trained professionals in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and cybersecurity.

The Tuskegee University SFS program is a collaborative effort with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, demonstrating our commitment to collaboration and innovation in the field of cybersecurity. Dr. Fan Wu, Professor and Head of the Computer Science Department, leads this collaborative project, along with Dr. Faye Hall Jackson, Assistant Provost, and Dr. Li Jiang, Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor.

The NSF’s CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service is a highly prestigious and competitive program. The Tuskegee University SFS program focuses on producing graduates with integrated AI and cybersecurity competencies, addressing the ever-growing cybersecurity threats exacerbated by rapid advancements in AI technologies.

This renewed grant will support senior undergraduate students and those pursuing a Master of Science in Information Systems and Computer Security (MS-ISCS) degree. Scholarships will amount to approximately $60,000 for senior students and $70,000 for graduate students, covering tuition, stipends, health insurance, book allowances, and professional development.

In reflecting on the impact of the initial grant awarded in 2017, Tuskegee University has seen substantial success in recruiting and retaining SFS scholars. To date, 12 SFS scholars have been recruited, with seven successfully graduating from the MS-ISCS program. Remarkably, all SFS graduates who have been placed are currently serving in the federal government’s executive branch, and three more are in the pipeline. Their experiences include invaluable summer internships within the federal government, uniquely preparing them for their roles upon graduation.

Dr. Fan Wu, the PI of the grant, emphasized the significance of this opportunity for Tuskegee University students, stating, “This SFS grant provides a great opportunity for TU students, both CS and non-CS majors, the prestigious scholarship and joining the National Cybersecurity Workforce with Integrated Learning of AI/ML and Cybersecurity. It will also help us strengthen our MS-ISCS program while contributing to the national AI/ML cybersecurity workforce.”

Dr. Faye Hall Jackson, Co-PI of the grant, emphasized the university’s role in fostering diversity in the cybersecurity field. “As one of 94 SFS participating institutions nationally and one of six participating HBCUs, the impact of this funded program goes a long way in increasing the number of culturally diverse cybersecurity professionals in government service,” stated Jackson. “The university’s focus on extending training opportunities to non-computer science students through the Cyber-Bridge pipeline program is a positive step in expanding cyber opportunities to applied and liberal science majors.”

Dr. Li Jiang, Co-PI of the grant, highlighted the comprehensive approach to student success in the SFS program. “The SFS program will implement cohort programs, and students will gain common cohort experiences, including taking a common curriculum in one cohort, required forums/field trips, collaborative research, security conference participation, Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), and K-12 outreach, said Jiang. “These strong, well-designed academic programs, high-quality student services, past experiences built from prior NSF awards, and a network of industry partnerships help ensure scholar success.”

Tuskegee University’s MS-ISCS program has been instrumental in preparing highly qualified professionals with expertise in Information Systems Management and Cybersecurity. The program uniquely integrates business and computer science disciplines, equipping students to make strategic decisions regarding information security issues, such as identity theft, electronic fraud, hacking attacks, and cyber warfare.

Graduates of the program have found success in various roles within federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as private companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Raytheon, and Intel. Notably, the Center of Information Assurance Education within the department has received repeated recognition as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the NSA and DHS. The CAE-CD actively supports faculty, students, and the community in conducting teaching, research, and other activities in cybersecurity and provides national standards for cybersecurity courses. It also offers workshops and extends outreach activities to promote cybersecurity awareness and knowledge.

With the continued support of the NSF, Tuskegee University is poised to make significant contributions to the national cybersecurity workforce while providing exceptional opportunities for its students.