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Exclusive NSA designation positions NKU on cybersecurity frontlines

For immediate release…
Monday – Jan. 26, 2015

Northern Kentucky University (NKU) is the first institution in Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati region to be designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense (CAE IA/CD). The designation positions NKU on the frontlines in preparing students to deal with the cybersecurity challenges businesses and government face on a daily basis.

“Being designated as the only center of this kind in the region is yet another example of Northern Kentucky University leading with excellence,” said NKU President Geoffrey Mearns. “We are preparing our students for success while also filling a vital role in providing highly qualified individuals to protect and defend an important part of our nation’s infrastructure.”

The CAE IA/CD designation is a program of the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This designation identifies NKU’s cybersecurity program as a top-tier program in the nation. It also qualifies NKU for special research grants and scholarships.

Currently only 51 institutions of higher learning have met the rigorous academic criteria to receive the CAE IA/CD designation. NKU is the only one in Kentucky. A complete list is available at

“This is a very timely recognition,” said Dr. Kevin Kirby, Dean of the College of Informatics. “Our cybersecurity students are in high demand. They have the ability to think critically in real time, and they are quick learners energetic enough to keep up with tools and techniques that change day by day.”

President Obama has said one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation is cybersecurity. The nation’s public and private information infrastructure is under constant attack from hackers and nation states seeking to steal secrets and intellectual property and disable, destabilize, or otherwise gain advantage of our nation’s communication and digital backbone.

That is one reason why cybersecurity is such a high-growth industry. The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 37 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. [Read more:]

“Safeguarding client information and protecting company data are imperative for every business,” said Zhen Tao, CTO and CIO at Paycor Inc. “Information security is becoming a constant priority for CIOs and CTOs around the world. Engaging highly qualified cybersecurity professionals is one of the key steps to building a safer environment for critical customer data and business operations during this Internet age.”

Mike Schuetter, director of information security at CBTS, echoed those sentiments. “I believe NKU hears our business needs and, through the achievement of the NSA CAE accreditation, continues to prove their formal commitment to developing cyber security talent leveraging nationally recognized standards,” he said. “Partnering with universities such as NKU that have the NSA CAE accreditation greatly assists me in finding qualified resources to help me build my advanced cyber security program."

The CAE IA/CD designation adds to NKU’s growing reputation nationally for training top-notch cybersecurity students. Last year the NKU Cyber Defense team placed first in the Midwest and sixth in the nation. The team won the Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Invitational last October.

“The CAE designation for NKU is a direct validation of the high quality and diverse work being done in the computer science and business informatics academic departments in the College of Informatics,” said Dr. James McGuffee, chair of the NKU Department of Computer Science. “With the designation of CAE from the federal government and the proven track record of our Cyber Defense team, it is clear that NKU is an academic leader in the areas of information assurance and cyber defense.”

Dr. James Walden, associate professor of computer science, said the designation has benefits far beyond academia. “NKU’s designation as a Center for Academic Excellence will not only help our students find employment upon graduation, but should positively impact economic development in our region,” he said. “Companies need highly trained cybersecurity professionals, and having CAE in the Northern Kentucky region will help fill this need.”

The CAE IA/CD is a rigorous program with updated academic criteria for Cybersecurity education over the NSA’s previous CAE/IAE program. More information on the CAE IA/CD program can be found on this NSA website at and on the National IA Education & Training Programs website at

For more information on NKU’s cybersecurity program visit the NKU Center for Information Security (CIS) website at

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