UTSA introduces cybersecurity grants for veterans


UTSA has been nationally ranked “number 1” among cybersecurity schools. Ethan Pham, The Paisano

Ben Shirani

In late September, the Department of Homeland Security awarded UTSA a $3 million grant as a member of the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium (NCPC) to “develop and deliver” cybersecurity training. The NCPC consists of teams from five schools, including the Center for Information Assurance and Security with UTSA, the Texas Engineering Extension Service with Texas A&M University, the Criminal Justice Institute in the University of Arkansas System and the University of Memphis and Norwich University Applied Research Institute.  

The NCPC is led by Greg White and Natalie Sjelin. According to UTSA’s website, the NCPC (a federally funded program) will develop cyber training courses for states, municipalities and tribal people affiliated with a federally recognized Native American or Indian American tribe and territories. According to U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro and NCPC representative Sjelin, the courses will assist first responders in securing their cybersecurity posture.

UTSA offers three different cyber-relevant degree plans: Cybersecurity, Information Technology Cyber Security and an MBA in Cyber Security. Back in September, the university was awarded an additional $471,549 grant from the United States Army Reserve, known as the “cyber warrior” grant. The grant earned its nickname in part because it’s intended for military veterans in groups like the Wounded Warrior project, according to the grants program director, Glenn Dietrich, professor of information systems and cybersecurity.  The Office of Institutional Research reported that 502 students were enrolled in cybersecurity majors on or before Census Day Fall 2016. Out of that group, 40 of those students were veterans. 1,156 veterans total enrolled at UTSA in Fall 2016, according to the same data.

To help bridge the divide between military and civilian cyber activities, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has introduced the Cyber Investigator Certification Program, a joint FBI, IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) and Carnegie Mellon University venture to provide first responder training relevant to cyber crime scenes. “Veterans offer a unique and grand amount of experience in the workforce,” cyber security major Colton McDaniel said. “They have hands-on training in the field where the security of information and retrieval of information could mean a large difference.”

“There is a large need for professionals in the market for everything dealing with protection of information, including the government,” he said. “Most of the veterans I’ve talked to while on duty are doing something in the same field, and when they try to find a civilian job after, they already have hands-on experience.”

The program is available to federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officials. According to FBI Special Agent James McDonald, “the more collaboration between agencies, the better we can get at securing a crime scene involving digital evidence.”  

Grants like the one UTSA now offers to veterans take advantage of these career intersections.