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ASU center helps students pursue in-demand career — and "whoop" on the bad guys.
ASU has the edge on tapping into the Valley's below-the-radar cyber talent pool.
August 18, 2016

New initiative to address cybersecurity talent gap with education, enrichment and real-world experience for students

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

During the dot-com boom of the late ’90s and early 2000s, data centers began sprouting up by the dozens throughout the Phoenix metro area, with companies attracted to its abundance of open land, stable weather and low cost of living. Nowadays, it’s cybersecurity that’s booming, and for those same reasons the area is once again attracting companies in the industry.

With more than 200,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs — and an estimate of up to 1 million vacancies by the year 2020 — could the Valley of the Sun be poised to become “Cyber Valley”? Arizona State University professor of practice Kim Jones says it’s possible.

Jones was recently named director of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences' Cybersecurity Education Consortium, which was created with the goal of addressing the growing talent gap in the cybersecurity sector.

“There are lots of communities who are trying to fill that gap,” he said, “but I think Phoenix, and Arizona in general, are better positioned for it,” not only because of the aforementioned attractive conditions but also because there is “already a very good below-the-radar cyber talent pool here.”

And that’s something ASU is keenly aware of.

In February 2014, the university established the Global Security Initiative, a university-wide interdisciplinary hub for global security research. Shortly thereafter, in July 2015, the initiative launched the Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics to take a proactive, interdisciplinary approach to the issue of cybersecurity through research and education.

Global Security Initiative's director of strategy Jamie Winterton worked closely with professor of computer science and engineering Gail-Joon Ahn, who also serves as the Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics director, to shape the center.

“Gail and I did a competitive analysis of the field, and what we saw was that most cybersecurity centers at universities were buried in other departments, like science or law,” said Winterton. “There was not a lot of connection to other disciplines that are really important for cybersecurity and that should have a stake in the issue.”

With that in mind, the center has made a concerted effort to engage nearly 40 faculty members across eight academic units — from computer science and business to law, psychology and even the English Department.

An affiliate of the center and the Global Security Initiative, Jones says the Cybersecurity Education Consortium will operate on the same principle at ASU’s West campus, with a focus on enhancing the employability of students in cyber-related degree programs through partnerships with local businesses.

ASU professor of practice Kim Jones

ASU New College professor of practice Kim Jones will lead the Cybersecurity Education Consortium at the West campus with nearly 30 years of industry experience to guide him. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“When I think of the consortium, I think of a partnership between ASU and security professionals and businesses that makes sure we’re uplifting and enhancing not only the talent that’s coming out of the university, but also enriching the current talent that’s already in the pool,” he said.

That means helping students find relevant internships, helping businesses find quality talent, and providing education and enrichment opportunities for both. In the future, Jones plans for the consortium to offer an applied cybersecurity degree and, eventually, scholarships.

He has been working on laying the foundation for all of that since he joined ASU in April 2016. Most recently, Jones secured a $100,000 partnership with Intuit, a personal finance and tax software company. As a gold-level founding member of Cybersecurity Education Consortium, Intuit will help to sponsor the center’s efforts by providing seed money for courses and activities and by participating on the center’s advisory board, ensuring that what is being taught and offered is truly of value to students and businesses.

Before coming to ASU, Jones spent 14 years as chief information security officer for various companies, including four years for the largest debit-card processor in the nation. And before that, the West Point grad spent 11 years as a military intelligence officer and five years consulting for various organizations.

“Kim Jones has nearly 30 years of experience in the cybersecurity sector,” said Marlene Tromp, dean of the New College. “This rich background of industry experience positions him to build exciting partnerships that will afford ASU students the chance to solve real cybersecurity challenges, as well as to imagine the future of cybersecurity.”

Tromp believes the consortium has the power to become a key regional and national producer of cybersecurity talent.

Part of that, Jones says, is due to ASU “taking a very novel and innovative approach” to addressing the issue of the cybersecurity talent gap. He acknowledges the “brilliance and significance” of ASU’s faculty, but as a professor of practice, he also appreciates the university’s ability to recognize the importance of having someone on board who has extensive real-world knowledge of the field.

“I think that gives ASU a tremendous advantage in the cyber talent space versus anyone else,” he said. “The quality and caliber of our program — beyond just the certifications, in terms of practical skills, practical application — is going to be better than any other program from any other university that’s out there.”

Jones points out that consortium's mission also aligns with ASU President Michael Crow’s vision of the New American University being one that is socially embedded.

To students interested in a career in cybersecurity, he advises, “If you really want to know what it’s like, please come talk to me. Email me, call me, stop by. Part of my job is [to give students] an understanding of what it really means to do this. It’s not always as sexy as it looks on TV, but it’s very rewarding, it’s a lot of fun and if you like whoopin’ up on the bad guys, this lets you do that. There is no feeling like it.”

Top photo: Kim Jones, director of ASU's new Cybersecurity Education Consortium, is setting up the new program to help to connect students majoring in computer sciences in any school within the university with local cybersecurity companies so that they can get real-world experience. There could be 1 million openings in the field in the next four years. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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ASU attracts Olympic talent as world-class training hub

With Phelps on pool deck, ASU commits to being an Olympic training hub.
August 18, 2016

University commits to upgrade facilities, involve community, hire top coaches — such as superstars Phelps and Bowman

The closing ceremony of the 2016 Rio Games comes this weekend, but it won’t be the end of Arizona State University’s Olympic involvement. The school is positioning itself as a mecca where world-class athletes will come to train year-round.

To create the right environment, ASU athletic director Ray Anderson said the university has committed to hiring top-level coaches, improving facilities and leveraging community support.

“We’re very serious about our Olympic sports,” Anderson said. “We think they really add to the entire experience of what our responsibility is to deliver.”

At the forefront of those efforts, Anderson said, is swimming. The school last year hired Bob Bowman — personal coach of Michael Phelps — to run the swim program.

“The thing I noticed when I came here is that there is such a great energy within the administration and staff to make ASU something really great,” Bowman said. “I truly believe we’ll be an Olympic training hub, and each year it will build.”

Phelps came to ASU to train last year before heading off to his fifth Olympic games, where he won six medals, bringing his career total to 28. It has cemented his legacy as the greatest swimmer in history and the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.

Phelps will return to ASU this fall as an assistant swim coach.

Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson, vice president for university athletics, said that ASU is serious about becoming an elite training mecca. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Besides Bowman and Phelps, there are several other Sun Devil coaches with Olympic experience, including:

• Misty Hyman, senior assistant coach for swimming, was a gold-medal winner in the 2000 Olympics;

• Cliff English, head of the new triathlon program, was in Rio de Janeiro as the personal coach for two triathletes;

• Mark Bradshaw, head coach of the diving program, competed at the 1988 Olympic games and was head coach of Finland’s national diving team in 2004 and 2008;

• Zeke Jones, head coach of the wrestling program, won a silver medal in the 1992 Olympics and was head coach of the men’s freestyle team in the 2012 games in London, which won two gold and two bronze medals.

Zeke Jones

Zeke Jones, head coach of Sun Devil wrestling, said his Olympic experience was "life changing." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Phelps has mentioned ASU’s facilities as a key draw.  “I swam indoors my whole career,” before starting to train at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center. “Being able to see the sun every day is something that’s beneficial.”

The school’s most high-profile facility upgrade, the $250 million Sun Devil Stadium renovation, won’t directly affect Olympic sports, but Anderson said ASU is dedicated to other improvements.

“We have the will to do it,” he said. “We have absolute intentions of upgrading tennis as facilities that will accommodate lacrosse and soccer. We’ll eventually upgrade track and field as well.”

The facilities already have been enough to attract several Olympians besides Phelps, including swimmers Chase Kalisz, Cierra Runge and Allison Schmitt, weightlifter Morghan King and Australian triathlete Ashleigh Gentle.

Jones, the wrestling coach, discussed the importance of community support in building an Olympic hub, citing the ASU’s work with the Phoenix-based Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club, including a youth camp, as a key partnership.

“What you see here you don’t see elsewhere — world-class coaching, partners, university commitment. That doesn’t happen in many places,” Jones said.

Jones wrestled for ASU and came in 2014 to become head coach of the program. He called the Olympic experience “life changing,” adding, “It’s this tradition we hopefully keep passing along here.”

Top photo: Record-breaking American swimmer Michael Phelps trained at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center with head swimming coach Bob Bowman before traveling to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News