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New Master’s Degree Combines Public Policy with Cybersecurity

The University of Texas at Dallas is taking an interdisciplinary approach to help prepare its graduate students to meet growing demands for cyber professionals.

The new graduate degree program provides students the opportunity to learn strategic, policy and analytic aspects of cybersecurity. 

Starting in fall 2020, the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS) will offer a Master of Science in cyber security, technology and policy in conjunction with the Department of Computer Science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS).

 “UT Dallas’ public policy expertise will serve as a bridge between government and technology,” said Dr. Jennifer Holmes, professor of political science, public policy and political economy, and dean of EPPS. “This graduate degree is a natural complement to the existing technical offerings in the Department of Computer Science.”

A front-runner in cybersecurity research and education, the University established the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute in 2004. In 2015, UT Dallas became the first university in Texas to receive the National Security Agency’s prestigious designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. In October, ECS received $4 million from the National Science Foundation for CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service, which provides funding to help students earn advanced computer science degrees.

Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, the Founders Chair in Engineering and Computer Science and executive director of the institute, is one of the world’s leading experts in data security and data mining, and a Fellow of both the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She said the new degree will give students an in-demand skill set to fill jobs in a variety of public and private sector agencies and industries.

“This is an untapped niche emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach to cybersecurity, technology and policy. EPPS will provide students with faculty expertise in the practical applications of cybersecurity.”

Dr. Jennifer Holmes, dean of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences

“Demand for information security analysts is expected to stay very high, as these analysts will be needed to create innovative solutions to prevent criminals from stealing critical information or causing problems for computer networks,” Thuraisingham said.

Housed under the EPPS umbrella, the new degree is designed to teach students how to ascertain the risk of a cyberattack, identify security gaps in different policy settings and work within a regulatory framework. It provides an opportunity for both students with prior computer science experience and those coming from nontechnical backgrounds to learn strategic, policy and analytic aspects of cybersecurity. In addition to courses in informational systems, computer science and cognitive psychology, the program provides public policy courses on privacy, ethics, and data security and regulations.

“In a nutshell, this is an untapped niche emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach to cybersecurity, technology and policy,” Holmes said. “EPPS will provide students with faculty expertise in the practical applications of cybersecurity. We have experts in congressional issues, policymaking and security studies, to name just a few relevant courses.

The degree program will add 10 new classes to the existing curriculum, culminating in a Capstone Cyber Security and Policy project in which students apply knowledge gained in coursework to a case study. Students will create a comprehensive cybersecurity policy that identifies the risks, privacy concerns and legal standards in an existing institution.

“I think it’s a revolutionary model moving forward,” Holmes said. “EPPS can be a good policy anchor and partner in the future for cybersecurity and other areas.”

Cyberseek.org, a clearinghouse that connects cyber professionals with job opportunities, notes a chronic shortage of workers with the necessary cybersecurity skills to fit some of the country’s top jobs. According to the , the number of information security analyst jobs is projected to grow 32% over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.

UT Dallas’ new degree is designed to meet that demand, Holmes said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].