Unique Program To Educate Next Generation of U.S. Cybersecurity Leaders

The University of Maryland and the Northrop Grumman Corporation will launch a landmark honors program designed to educate a new generation of advanced cybersecurity professionals. The unique program, Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES), will immerse undergraduate students in all aspects of the field to meet growing manpower needs in the nation and the State of Maryland.

ACES will engage a highly talented, diverse group of students--majors in computer science, engineering, business, public policy and the social sciences--in an intensive living-learning environment that focuses on the multifaceted aspects of cybersecurity and develops team-building skills. Students will take on an advanced, cross-disciplinary curriculum developed through industry consultation, and will interact directly with industry and government cybersecurity mentors. Student enrolled in the program will have the option of interning with Northrop Grumman and preparing for security clearance. ACES will produce skilled, experienced cybersecurity leaders highly sought by corporate and government organizations.

The Northrop Grumman Corporation will provide a grant of $1.1 million to launch the program, which will begin in the fall of 2013, and support it for an additional two years.  The University of Maryland will match that amount.

The ACES Program will serve as an inaugural Regional Workforce Project of The Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), of which University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. (“Brit”) Kirwan is chair, and Wes Bush, Chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman is vice chair.

Stated Patrick O’Shea, UMD vice president for research, "Together with industry leader Northrop Grumman, we have developed the ACES Honors Program to produce a new generation of experts prepared to take on real-world cybersecurity challenges. We expect that ACES, like our other honors programs, will become a national model for preparing young people to excel in emerging, multi-disciplinary fields."

Finding employees fully prepared to take on complex cybersecurity issues is a major challenge for corporations and government agencies. Wes Bush, chairman, CEO & president of Northrop Grumman said, “We are fully committed to developing solutions to help eliminate the nation’s shortage of critical STEM-educated talent and by partnering with the University of Maryland, we will address workforce challenges in the increasingly important field of cybersecurity. The university has an outstanding track record for developing innovative educational programs to answer real-world needs, excellent research capabilities through its Maryland Cybersecurity Center, and close relationships with the many federal agencies and corporations in the Washington, D.C., area likewise concerned about cybersecurity.”

"The need for STEM professionals throughout the United States is critical and partnerships with industry leaders represent one of the most effective approaches we can take to enhance STEM education while meeting STEM workforce needs," stated Kirwan. "The University System of Maryland and Northrop Grumman have been working together to address our mutual challenges. As Chair of BHEF, I believe this new Industry-Higher Education partnership model can replicate the success we have seen in Maryland across the U.S. These regional projects represent innovative, collaborative approaches enabling us to get to solutions in order to tackle our nation’s toughest workforce challenges."

Brian Fitzgerald, CEO of BHEF, remarked, "ACES is a perfect example of how industry and higher education can partner to make meaningful change to our nation’s workforce challenges. As one of the ten current BHEF STEM Regional Workforce Projects, this deeper collaboration exemplifies how BHEF members are no longer ‘admiring the problem,’ but providing real solutions. By creating the platform that engages undergraduate students during the critical first two years of college, keeps them in the education pipeline of these high-demand fields, and ultimately prepares them and keeps them for a long-term career, the University System of Maryland and Northrop Grumman are a national example that others can follow."

ACES will consist of an intensive curriculum, which will include general cybersecurity offerings, as well as a variety of other topics, including cybersecurity forensics, reverse engineering, secure coding, criminology, and law and public policy. In year-long capstone courses, teams of seniors will apply their knowledge and skills in solving complex cybersecurity problems. Summer internships will augment coursework with real-world projects and develop a pipeline of talented students. Throughout, Northrop Grumman will provide guest lecturers, participate in an industry advisory board, pose real-world problems for students to solve, and provide advisors and mentors for capstone projects.

The ACES program is slated to accept its first students at the College Park campus in fall 2013. Over time, through distance education programs, online course offerings, transfer of students, and competitions, universities across the University System of Maryland will participate in the program. 

What Public Officials Are Saying About the ACES Honors Program

"The ACES program at the University of Maryland will help make our country safer and Maryland’s economy stronger. Right now, Maryland is the global epicenter of cyber security. And we are national leaders in developing the cyber workforce of today to fill cyber jobs that are available now. Graduates with credentials in cyber security are in demand to fill the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow - jobs that will never leave the United States."
- Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.)

"The ACES program represents Maryland at its best. This unique partnership between Northrop Grumman and our flagship campus demonstrates Maryland’s leadership role as the epicenter of cybersecurity."
- Gov. Martin O’Malley (Md.)

"It is critical to our nation’s security that we build a competitive workforce that can take on the cyber security issues our military, businesses, financial institutions, and others face. I commend the University of Maryland and Northrop Grumman for developing a program that will give our students the skills and real world experience necessary to address these cyber threats."
Congressman Steny Hoyer (Md.)

Published June 12, 2012