Within the last year, Moraine Valley Community College has received nearly $1.5 million in grants from the National Security Agency (NSA) for cybersecurity initiatives.

In 2013, Moraine Valley became a CAE/2Y, which is a National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance 2-Year Education. In 2016, the college was selected as a CAE Regional Resource Center (CRRC), or a source for community colleges in the north central region of the country working toward the CAE/2Y designation. These designations collectively have allowed the college to receive more grants to further its efforts.

The GenCyber grant allowed Moraine Valley to hold a weeklong cybersecurity camp in August for middle school students from inner-city Chicago and Matteson School District 159. Students learned about online safety and cyberbullying, cryptography, computer programming, cybersecurity careers, and cybersecurity safety. Justin Valentino, Moraine Valley Local Area Networks instructor, led the camp and submitted a proposal to continue it next summer.

A grant for the Cybersecurity Workforce Education-Investment in Expansion includes two projects. The first is to upgrade the college’s industrial automation lab to make it up-to-date and available virtually, making it accessible to students as well as fellow CAE schools. Moraine Valley faculty will develop and distribute curriculum with Cisco Networking Technologies and Rockwell Automation Industrial Process Control, which will be shared with area high schools. The upgrade should be complete by 2018. The second project is to expand cybersecurity learning to historically black colleges and underrepresented communities as well as pilot a program with local high schools to expose students to home automation and Internet of Things technologies (a network of physical devices that communicate information with humans or other technology).

The final grant is for National K-12 Career and Technical Education (CTE). To build a much needed cybersecurity workforce, Moraine Valley’s CRRC will collaborate with state administrators and area coordinators to incorporate cybersecurity into existing CTE career pathways and career clusters in Illinois before expanding it to Indiana and Wisconsin.

“This grant funding keeps us a national leader for community colleges. We’re only one of a few who get these,” said Dr. John Sands, professor/department chair of Information Technology and director/principal investigator of the Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance NSF Regional Center. “We can help other schools replicate programs. As a League for Innovation in the Community College school, we’re adopting best practices.”