The rise of The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

Nov. 26, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Dakota State University

Nineteen programs.

20 new faculty.

A one-of-a-kind research and development center.

In only two years.

That just begins to tell the story of The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences, which officially opened in 2017.

In that short time, the college already  has begun to realize the transformational effect envisioned with the gift from PREMIER Bankcard president and CEO Miles Beacom, wife Lisa and Denny Sanford that helped launch The Beacom College and The Beacom Institute of Technology and pave the way for all things cyber at Dakota State University.

It’s a story of talent, innovation and support that just keeps getting stronger.

“DSU provided me the tools to be successful. Now, my wife and I would like to help provide the tools for future generations to be successful. There is a huge opportunity in computer and cyber sciences today and far into the future, across the globe and in every aspect of business to everyday living,” said Beacom, a 1981 graduate of DSU.

Since 2017, The Beacom College has experienced incredible accomplishments, including the recent opening of the new Madison Cyber Labs, or MadLabs, facility, which is a prominent hub for research, development and economic opportunity.

In addition to the expansion, The Beacom College added 20 faculty members and has spent quality time enhancing its academic programs.

“The gift has opened many doors for The Beacom College. It has allowed for program growth, faculty growth, reputational growth and talent,” said Richard Hanson, dean of the college.

These programs consist of certificates all the way up to doctoral degrees, bringing the total number of programs within the college to 19.

Each program is intrinsically dedicated to cybersecurity, cyber operations and computer science. All offer elite training in the latest technologies and enable students to work in DSU’s high-tech laboratories, such as the Information Assurance Lab and the Data Server Room. They also allow students to work with top-notch equipment, including a 3D printer. All are necessary elements when studying in the cyber field.

“Our programs have seen tremendous growth the last two years,” Hanson said. “We have good laboratories along with outstanding equipment that has great capacity. All that facilitates innovation and creativity. It’s all right here.”

Danica Hahn, a graduate student working on a master’s degree in cyber defense, said the addition of The Beacom College has allowed her and her peers to have a plethora of classes, which makes her studies at Dakota State more meaningful. She also credits the technology-embedded courses for enhancing her educational experience.

“There’s been an increase in classes, which helps a lot when picking electives,” Hahn said. “The technology capabilities in this facility are also a massive help when working on projects and help us get hands-on experience at another level. Plus, having the huge lobby in The Beacom really gives us a chance to collaborate with other students and even faculty.”

Jarod Keene, a graduate student who is studying for a master’s degree in computer science, also believes that having designated student work spaces increases the chance of student collaboration and amplifies the type of work students are completing. Like many other students, Keene has been able to witness this innovation and creativity first-hand.

“I’ve personally seen a great deal of growth in student progression and production within The Beacom College. The hands-on approach is very effective and allows so many students to experience what real-life computer and cyber science work looks like,” he said. “It has definitely put DSU on the map for popular and upcoming educational programs.”

Indicators of excellence

With collaborative student work spaces, elite training and a hands-on approach, The Beacom College has achieved a 100 percent placement rate for its graduates, a strong online student presence and various ratings throughout the nation for its academic programs.

DSU also now holds four prestigious Center of Academic Excellence, or CAE, designations from the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security: Cyber Operations, its most technical designation; CAE Regional Resource Center; Cyber Defense Education; and the Cyber Defense Research – one of only four universities nationwide. Dakota State is one of only two universities in the country with four or more designations.

In addition to its designations from the NSA and Homeland Security, The Beacom College also is redefining government and corporate partnerships. Leadership and faculty are committed to developing meaningful connections with education, public, government and private entities to combine resources and collaborate.

“We host partnerships of all kind at DSU,” Hanson said. “Having stakeholder input is really important because we have to stay current and competitive. There are government partnerships, military partnerships, private partnerships and local partnerships. It’s these kinds of relationships that are crucial and play a part in our success.”

Meeting workforce needs

Here’s another big achievement: DSU has experienced a 250 percent increase in women in cyber programs since 2013.

Pam Rowland, assistant professor of cybersecurity and director of CybHER Institute, said this increase in women will provide more individuals to fill the workforce talent gap while also increasing the number of students at DSU, which will further increase influence and community impact.

“The increase in the number of women in cybersecurity means more skilled employees in a world that is projected to have 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021,” she said. “For the women in the program, it means competitive pay, leading the way for other women and girls and a fulfilling career that makes a real impact in the world.”

The Beacom College also is expanding professional development, which will allow students to get hands-on experience in their fields while gaining even more knowledge from their professors and other professionals.

This professional development includes access to conferences such as DakotaCon, Wild West Hackin’ Fest, and The Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium.

“With conferences, competitions and on-campus jobs relevant to my degree, it really gives us students the chance to expand our professional development opportunities prior to graduation,” Hahn said.  Plus, we’re able to learn from faculty who are experts in their field and give us real-life advice, which makes them a great professional connection later on.”

Students also have the opportunity to participate in multiple competitions throughout the semester:

  • MITRE Capture the Flag Competition.
  • National Cyber League Capture the Flag Competition.
  • Argonne National Lab CyberForce Cyber Defense Competition.
  • Digi-Key Programming Competition.
  • Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium Programming Competition.
  • Association for Computing Machinery Programming Competition.
  • Iowa State Cyber Defense Competition.
  • Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

With all its success, it’s no wonder why The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences is a prime choice for students and faculty nationwide. The future of The Beacom College promises to see more students, more diversity and more highly educated and motivated individuals prepared for a career in cybersecurity. And thanks to the Beacoms and Denny Sanford, students can graduate with an education that will thrive in a demanding field.

DSU President José-Marie Griffiths is proud of the university’s reputation as a cyber institute and looks forward to being the powerhouse of future cyber operations.

“At Dakota State, we are rising from a Little University on the Prairie to a Cyber Powerhouse on the Plains. An important part of this momentum has been the support of Miles and Lisa Beacom and Denny Sanford,” she said. “With their generous gifts, we are able to attract knowledgeable faculty and high-achieving students with our state-of-the-art teaching, innovative research opportunities and modern facilities. Together, we are a driving force in the future of cyber.”

For information, please visit The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences.

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The rise of The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

“The gift has opened many doors.” It’s hard to believe The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences is only two years old when you see how much has been accomplished.

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