UCCS’ Women in Cybersecurity Fireside Chats to help women explore broad options in the field

UCCS is offering a monthly Women in Cybersecurity Fireside Chat series, bringing in some of the region’s most impressive female cybersecurity talent to help women explore existing opportunities in the field. Photo credit: Petter Lagson, Unsplash

To understand the growing and concerning worldwide issue of cybersecurity, you only need to glance at your phone or read the daily news headlines. Yet cybersecurity remains a male-dominated field — meaning that the talent pool available to meet cybersecurity threats is far smaller than it could be.

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) is setting out to educate and prepare its student base to address this need by engaging women in the field, starting with its cross-campus Women in Cybersecurity Fireside Chat Series this spring, sponsored by UCCS and corporate partner Tanium.

From February–April 2022, three of the four University of Colorado campuses — UCCS, CU Boulder and CU Denver — will host the Fireside Chat series, a joint UCCS, WiCyS and Tanium event (both in person and virtual). The series will bring in some of the region’s most impressive female cybersecurity talent: from chief information security officers and vice presidents of security at leading companies to senior fellows, professors and retired major generals in the U.S. Air Force, now leading key organizations in our community.

One of dozens of such events that the UCCS Cybersecurity Program Office offers, the monthly Women in Cybersecurity event is targeted at those who are new to cybersecurity and looking to explore the opportunities that exist. We encourage you to join us — the event is open to everyone. Learn more at the Women in Cybersecurity Fireside Chat event webpage. Thanks to our corporate sponsor, Tanium, the event is free of charge.

How is UCCS supporting women in cybersecurity?

There is an imbalance in the number of women in cybersecurity fields. According to Cybercrime Magazine*, women represent 20 percent of the global workforce in cybersecurity. The good news: that’s up from the 2013 estimate by Frost and Sullivan, a tech industry think tank, of only 11 percent. As such, UCCS is focused on growing a more diverse representation, and that starts with its partnership with Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS).

In 2021, the UCCS Cybersecurity Program Office helped initiate a WiCyS student chapter at UCCS with the help of enterprising students. Now, UCCS is partnering with local WiCyS student chapters to provide cybersecurity education and networking opportunities for women. From February–April 2022, UCCS, WiCyS, and Tanium — a local technology company, corporate partner and sponsor — are putting on a monthly Women in Cybersecurity event.

Many more resources for women interested in cybersecurity, including scholarships, career information and educational resources, are available on the UCCS Cybersecurity Programs website.

Are you a good fit for a cybersecurity career?

The prevailing wisdom of incoming students (and their parents) is that you must be an engineering student to go into cybersecurity. Not so, says Gretchen Bliss, Director of the Cybersecurity Program Office at UCCS.

“As a Russian linguist who has worked in the Department of Defense for 25 years before coming to UCCS, I have witnessed the deep and broad need for skilled cybersecurity talent across many disciplines,” Bliss said. “If you look at job openings for major government departments, not to mention private industry and education, you will find almost 600,000 jobs available in the US alone — and Colorado is one of the top 10 states in need.”**

UCCS has woven cybersecurity education into five of its six undergraduate colleges, showing that students from nearly any academic program can find a future in cybersecurity.

If you think you might be interested in cybersecurity, learn more on the UCCS Cybersecurity Programs website.

How did UCCS become a national leader in cybersecurity?

UCCS’ nationally recognized leadership in cybersecurity education didn’t happen overnight. Thanks to a grant from the state of Colorado called the Colorado Cybersecurity Initiative (CSI), UCCS established the Cybersecurity Program Office in the summer of 2020. Since then, UCCS has secured several grants from the U.S. National Security Administration (NSA), among other sponsors. Together, this funding and support has enabled UCCS to advocate for increasing education and training resources in cybersecurity, not only for CU students in all 6 colleges at UCCS and prospective students, but for K­–12 students as well as teachers in K–12 and higher ed.

As the first NSA-accredited National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Defense in the CU system, UCCS has established its cybersecurity credibility. Now offering over 20 certificates, degrees, and programs across five colleges (Engineering & Applied Science, Education, Letters, Arts & Sciences, School of Public Affairs, and Business), UCCS is driven to illustrate the cross-disciplinary nature of cybersecurity — and the CU system’s ability to address growing needs.

So how is UCCS going about addressing the woeful lack of skilled cybersecurity workforce in the US today? Capitalizing on the strong defense industry presence in the Colorado Springs area, the UCCS Cybersecurity Program Office is mobilizing and coordinating efforts across education, research, industry and the government. It’s no small task. And yet, UCCS has made a laudable start.

As a commitment to cybersecurity, not only has the Colorado Legislature, through the CSI initiative, renewed the $2.8M in annual funding for three years beginning in 2021, but UCCS has also secured over $19m in funding as of 2021 that will help fund efforts for the next 2–5 years. While the funding is not permanent, it should help establish a greatly needed resource and talent pool in the CU system and in the state of Colorado.

In addition, UCCS is in the process of fully renovating and expanding its Cybersecurity Building, the home of the new Kevin O’Neil Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research. Construction will grow the space to over 30,000 square feet in 2022. This facility will house the UCCS Cybersecurity Programs Office, the offices and research spaces of cybersecurity faculty, classrooms, graduate research space, cybersecurity labs and meeting space, not to mention key community partner organizations. Those partners include the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC), an organization established in 2016 by former Governor John Hickenlooper, the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Space ISAC) and Exponential Impact (XI), a business accelerator for entrepreneurs and startup companies in the Colorado Springs community.

While the UCCS Cybersecurity Program Office is somewhat new, the CU System has a long and strong history of respected technology and security degrees and programs that this new initiative is built upon. We look forward to growing and expanding on that strong base — and making a decided difference in the Colorado and national cybersecurity community as a result.

About Cybersecurity at UCCS

UCCS is a recognized cybersecurity education leader in the region, awarding hundreds of degrees each year in cybersecurity fields at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. UCCS cybersecurity programs train security professionals who work to ensure the nation’s security, support faculty research and strategic cybersecurity partnerships with industry, government, military and academic institutions, including the U.S. Space Force and the National Cybersecurity Center.  Due to generous Colorado state funding of cybersecurity education, UCCS students are eligible for significant financial aid towards security degree scholarships. Learn more about Cybersecurity Programs at UCCS.

This story is part of a monthly series featuring Cybersecurity Programs at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Read more about cybersecurity at UCCS.

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