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Oregon State University receives $4.8M grant

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Oregon State University has received $4.8 million from the National Science Foundation to help the United States close a big gap between the number of cybersecurity job openings and the number of qualified applicants for those positions.

The mission is important because without a strong workforce and a healthy pool of job candidates, government agencies, including tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations, are at increased risk of cyberattacks that threaten the safety of everything from the power grid to defense systems to individuals’ personal information, said the project’s leader Rakesh Bobba.

“We’re facing a massive shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals across the nation,” said Bobba, associate professor of computer science in the OSU College of Engineering. “With over 750,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U.S., including 7,500 in Oregon, this program is great for organizations who struggle to fill their positions and is a tremendous way to attract students into a highly desirable field that provides well-paying and satisfying careers.”

The grant, part of the NSF’s CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program, will fund scholarships to cybersecurity students and also support CyberClinic, a new College of Engineering program that involves students providing cybersecurity services to organizations across the Pacific Northwest.

Students accepted for the Scholarship for Service program agree to work for the U.S. government for the number of years they receive the scholarship – i.e., a student on scholarship for two years would then spend two years following graduation working in a cybersecurity role for a federal agency.

The scholarship includes a stipend for living expenses and is good for up to three academic years.

The grant will cover scholarships for up to 29 total students, both graduate and undergraduate. The program emphasizes the recruitment, retention and placement of underrepresented and underserved groups in cybersecurity including women, first-generation college students and low-income students.

Through CyberClinic, directed by assistant professor of practice Dave Nevin, students will assist underserved agencies throughout the Pacific Northwest through professionally guided clinical rotations.

The rotations, which are modeled after the clinical rotations used in OSU’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, provide students the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom in real-world environments.

Scott Ashford, OSU’s Kearney Dean of Engineering, says CyberClinic is a “great example of the hands-on learning Oregon State is known for.”

“It’s been a wonderful experience so far,” Nevin said. “The clinical rotations model used in veterinary education adapts well to cybersecurity education.

“Our students are incredible and very knowledgeable in the field, but most cybersecurity job openings require experience and this is a way for them to get that experience in a structured environment,” he added. “And it feels good to help organizations that would otherwise not be able to have their own cybersecurity program.”