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SC State was among six HBCUs that IBM initially announced in the program last spring. On Wednesday, IBM announced another 14 collaborations.  

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – South Carolina State University is launching a Cybersecurity Leadership Center in a collaboration with IBM, giving SC State students and faculty access to evolving technology and personnel in the ever-growing field of protecting information.

“South Carolina State University has a number of cybersecurity programs aimed at preparing next generation cybersecurity leaders through education, research, outreach, and collaborations,” said Dr. Nikunja Swain, chair and professor of SC State’s Computer Science and Mathematics Department. “We have ongoing collaborations with academia and industry, and this Cybersecurity Leadership Center builds upon our existing relationship with IBM through the IBM SkillsBuild program.”

SC State is host to one of 20 Cybersecurity Leadership Centers that IBM is developing with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to fill the need for trained personnel. In 2021, IBM Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna pledged for IBM to partner with HBCUs to establish Cybersecurity Leadership Centers, with the goal of building a more diverse U.S. cyber workforce.

The opportunity arrived as SC State began offering a full bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity this Fall Semester in addition to the minor already in place. Since 2019, SC State has been a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

SC State was one of six HBCUs that IBM initially announced as partners in the SkillsBuild effort last spring. On Wednesday, another 14 partnerships were announced, bringing the total to 20 in 11 states. Voorhees University became South Carolina’s second HBCU in the program after SC State.

Swain said IBM provides no-cost access to SC State students and faculty to customized cybersecurity curricula, innovative learning access to real world simulated cyber-attacks, access to multiple Software as a Service (SaaS) models in the IBM Cloud, and opportunities for faculty to consult with IBM cybersecurity personnel.

“This will help us to provide our students with practical skills and experience needed to be successful in ever changing landscape of cybersecurity,” Swain said.

Jordan Brown graduated from SC State in May with a degree in computer science, but he stayed on this fall to be one of the first Bulldogs to complete a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity.

“The software and courses that IBM have brought to SC State has helped both my academic and professional career tremendously,” Brown said. “I had the honor of earning an IBM Data Science Practitioner’s and Design Thinking Badge through the partnership here on campus.

“IBM offers modules that break down subjects that are usually too hard to understand studying independently into interactive projects and real-world situations that relate the information to what we may experience after college. Since I earned the badges, hiring interests have increased tremendously due to the use of data scientists across almost every career field.

“I believe maintaining a partnership with IBM and SCSU will continue to allow IT and STEM students to acquire extra skills needed to get an edge in such a competitive field of work,” Brown said.

SC State senior cybersecurity major Jordan Brown in SC State’s Cybersecurity Lab. Brown graduated in May with a degree in computer science, but he stayed on this fall to be one of the first Bulldogs to complete a degree in cybersecurity.

IBM staff visited the SC State campus in July for a series of workshops intended to make sure the center brings the best benefit to faculty and students at SC State. IBM’s relationship with SC State has included deployment of assets in the student labs over $1 million in estimated value. Faculty also have been being trained to teach students to use the assets maintained by IBM subject matter experts.

With 500,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., the need for expertise is critical. According to a recent IBM Security study, insufficiently staffed organizations average $550,000 more in breach costs than those that state they are sufficiently staffed.

“Collaborations between academia and the private sector can help students prepare for success. That’s especially true for HBCUs because their mission is so vital,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, vice president, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG. “The Cybersecurity Leadership Centers we’re co-creating with Historically Black College and Universities epitomize our commitment to the Black community and STEM education; it also builds on our pledge to train 150,000 people in cybersecurity over three years.”

IBM Cybersecurity Leadership Centers

·        Alabama – Alabama A&M University, Talladega College, Tuskegee University

·        Florida – Edward Waters University, Florida A&M University

·        Georgia – Albany State University, Clark Atlanta University

·        Louisiana – Grambling State University, Southern University System, Xavier University of LA

·        Maryland – Bowie State University, Morgan State University

·        Mississippi – Alcorn State University

·        North Carolina – North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University

·        South Carolina – South Carolina State University, Voorhees University

·        Texas – Texas Southern University

·        Virginia – Norfolk State University

·        West Virginia – West Virginia State University

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