Cybersecurity degree, internships underscore UW-Stout's renewed designation as national cybersecurity center

National Security Agency recognition goes through 2028; students receive paid internships as Career Services grows industry partnerships
Cybersecurity and CNIT Program Director Holly Yuan with students in the computer networking lab on campus.
Abbey Goers | December 26, 2023

With its recently renewed designation as National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity for Cyber Defense, UW-Stout has reached a standard that only about 4% of schools in the United States earn.

“The CAE-CD designation is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our faculty and students. It highlights our commitment to excellence in cyber defense education and positions UW-Stout as a leader in cybersecurity education. We're all very proud of this achievement,” said B.S. cybersecurity and B.S. computer networking and information technology Program Director Holly Yuan.

The designation, through the 2028 academic year, is an extension of the university’s 2017-2022 designation, from the National Security Agency. UW-Stout was the first four-year university in the state to receive it in 2017.

Logos for the National Security Agency and the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity
UW-Stout's CAE-CD, from the NSA, is through the 2028 academic year

“The designation broadens opportunities for research, grants and collaboration. It ensures that our education meets the strictest national standards in cybersecurity, and it also qualifies our students for the Department of Defense Cybersecurity Scholarship,” Yuan said.

The CAE-CD designation is significant for UW-Stout’s computer networking and information technology program, the only undergraduate program in Wisconsin to hold a CAE Program of Study designation.

Since its initial designation in 2017, UW-Stout has added a cybersecurity degree program, with the first cohort of on-campus and online students joining in fall 2022.

The cybersecurity program offers CYBR prefix courses that distinguish it as a unique discipline, Yuan said. “These courses, such as Cyber Forensics and Investigation; and Practical Application of Generative AI in IT and Cybersecurity, are designed to equip students with cutting-edge skills and knowledge,” she added.

UW-Stout’s Cybersecurity Research & Outreach Center was established with the 2017 designation.

CCDC team in Chicago
UW-Stout’s CCDC team at regional competition in Chicago in spring 2023 / Holly Yuan

Students enrolled in cybersecurity-related programs at UW-Stout are eligible to apply for the Department of Defense Cybersecurity Scholarship. The program promotes the recruitment of students for education in cybersecurity, preparing them for roles in intelligence and national security. 

The scholarship covers full cost of tuition, books and fees, and includes an annual stipend of $29,000, plus a one-time computer allowance of $1,650. Additionally, it offers a paid summer internship with the NSA and DoD, along with guaranteed employment with the DoD and NSA after graduation. Several UW-Stout students have received the scholarship.

Cybersecurity’s paid internship program prepares students for workforce

UW-Stout received a $298,771 cybersecurity internship grant in April 2023 to address Wisconsin’s workforce and infrastructure needs. The Fast Forward grant is from the state Department of Workforce Development and Universities of Wisconsin.

It provides paid industry internships to students enrolled in UW-Stout’s cybersecurity-related programs, including CNIT; cybersecurity; computer scienceapplied mathematics and computer science; and information and communication technologies, which is offered on-campus and online.

Student interns will receive direct mentoring from experienced cybersecurity and IT industry professionals, gain valuable skills, network with industry professionals and receive a competitive internship stipend.

Students enrolled in UW-Stout’s cybersecurity and IT programs are encouraged to apply.

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“The internship program officially began accepting applications about two weeks ago,” Yuan said. “Since then, we have seen a very positive response. Approximately 50 students have initiated the enrollment process, with 20 of these students already submitting their applications. These students are currently under the interview process with our partner employers for their hiring review.”

The internship program, in collaboration with Career Services, has established partnerships with a notable range of national and local cybersecurity and IT companies, including:

  • Dirks Group
  • Greenheck Fan
  • HBS
  • Heartland Business Systems
  • IBM
  • Jack Links
  • Malisko Engineering Inc.
  • Plastic Ingenuity Inc.
  • Promega
  • UW-Stout
  • Yahara Software, LLC
  • 3RT Networks

“Career Services will continue sending out student applications to our partner employers on a weekly rolling basis, until all positions within the program are filled. We anticipate there will be more employers joining the program in the spring, offering more opportunities for our students,” Yuan said.

Students who are unemployed, underemployed or from underrepresented groups in the field, including women and veterans, are encouraged to apply.

CCDC team, National CAE Cyber Game in April
UW-Stout’s CCDC team at the National CAE Cyber Game in spring 2023 / Holly Yuan

Student cyber teams have demonstrated outstanding performance in cybersecurity competitions, including three Wisconsin Collegiate Cyber Defense competition titles in the past four years. UW-Stout also took fourth place among 13 national teams, and No. 1 among Wisconsin teams, at the National Centers of Academic Excellence Cyber Game last spring. 

UW-Stout tied for second place among 10 national teams at the CCD invitational game on Dec. 2, scoring highest in the incident response section. Students are meeting weekly in the Cybersecurity Lab, equipped with hands-on cybersecurity tools, to prepare for the upcoming state CCD competition in February 2024. 

The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program is managed by NSA's National Cryptologic School. Federal partners include the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Initiative on Cybersecurity Education, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense Office of the Chief Information Officer and U.S. Cyber Command.


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