FHSU receives elite certification for security from federal government

Fort Hays State University's information and network security coursework has received an elite certification from the federal government.

Mark Bannister, chair of the Department of Information Networking and Telecommunications, announced this week that the information assurance curriculum at FHSU had received 100 percent certification from the Committee on National Security Systems for its 4011 and 4013E standards and has earned certification for a five year period.

"The official CNSS review described the FHSU curriculum mapping as 'marvelous,' " Bannister said.

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said: "Last year, the Kansas Legislature, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and the Kansas Board of Regents charged FHSU with the goal of becoming a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and provided financial resources to enable the university to achieve this goal. Successfully certifying a program’s academic curriculum is a major step toward this goal."

The president said that Kansas and the nation have a shortage of university graduates with information assurance skills. "Kansas businesses badly need graduates with this area of expertise," Hammond said. "The growing use of electronic tools for banking and finance, storing vital business and customer information, conducting research -- including bioscience and medical research -- developing and storing mission-critical intellectual property, and even controlling vital infrastructure such as electricity and water supplies requires persons with information assurance knowledge. Medical providers, government organizations and law enforcement agencies also need people with these skills. FHSU now offers academic programs to provide the skills. The quality of these offerings has been nationally certified by an agency of the federal government."

Bannister explained: "This certification means that the university's information assurance coursework has been reviewed by independent reviewers against standards developed by industry, government and academia and has passed with an outstanding review." He noted that he was aware of universities that sought to have their curriculum certified multiple times and failed multiple times. Generally, institutions are required to make some modifications or provide additional explanation after being reviewed for the first time. Fort Hays State University did not.
"We have a strong curriculum, excellent faculty, quality labs and invaluable industry support," Bannister said. "We have the key components of academic quality. The result is that we succeeded in being certified on our first effort!"

According to Bannister, the FHSU effort has been a team accomplishment. The first network security course was developed by adjunct faculty member Robert Pierce. Instructor Jon Tholstrup has worked over several years in developing additional courses and curriculum. In August after a highly competitive national search, FHSU added Dr. Keyu Jiang who has an extensive background in information assurance education, research and entrepreneurship. Susan Sands, who has substantial experience with CNSS curriculum mapping, served at the team's consultant.

Fort Hays State University will receive a ceremonial certificate during the CNSS Awards Ceremony at the 12th Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education. The colloquium will be held during the first week of June 2008 in Richardson, Texas -- near Dallas.

"With this step accomplished, we will immediately begin working on several other steps to create a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance in Kansas," Bannister noted.

In the letter announcing the certification decision, Lynn Hathaway, program manager for the Information Assurance Courseware Evaluation Program, said her organization validated that FHSU courseware met all of the elements of the Committee on National Security Systems National Training Standards for information systems security professionals and for system administrators.

"The IACE Program provides consistency in training and education for the information assurance skills that are critical to our nation," Hathaway said.

About the INT Department Broadcasting education began at FHSU in 1950 when the institution offered radio classes. The program evolved into television and film in the 1960s, added telephony and computer networking in the 1990s, Web development in 2000 and information assurance in 2007. Currently, nearly 300 FHSU students annually participate in learning to create, distribute or to protect digital media. For more information, visit www.fhsu.edu/int.

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu