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South Carolina State University has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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S.C. State says it is the first and only historically black institution in South Carolina to receive this designation.

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The designation is for the university's bachelor’s degree in computer science with cybersecurity program and is valid through the year 2024.

S.C. State joins Clemson, The Citadel, Trident Technical College and the University of South Carolina as a center of academic excellence in cyber defense.

Additionally, S.C. State is one of only 272 centers in cyber defense in the country, joining the ranks of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Johns Hopkins University, Ohio State University and more.

Institutions designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense are recognized by the U.S. government for their effective cyber defense programs and curricula.

Dr. Nikunja Swain, S.C. State's interim chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department and computer science professor, spearheaded the submission for the CAE Cyber Defense designation, along with other faculty members within the department.

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"This (designation) helps our computer science program. It helps us with recruitment, retention, getting external funding and training students in cybersecurity, which is a very important field with a huge shortage of workers," Swain said. "This was a team effort from my colleagues and the support of the university to contribute to a national need."

He thanked Dr. Allen Harper, executive director of the Center for Cyber Excellence at Liberty University, for serving as a resource for the university's computer science-cybersecurity department.

Swain said that the university is planning to expand its cybersecurity program by offering an online version and that the cyber defense designation helps to make that possible.

Swain, S.C. State President James E. Clark and Elbert R. Malone, the associate provost for Sponsored Programs and Research, accepted the CAE CDE certificate on behalf of the university during the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on Nov. 20.

Clark said, "This is huge. It represents years of hard work by Dr. Swain and his cybersecurity team at S.C. State. Cybersecurity is one of the most critical activities in all of computing today and is critical for our nation.

“As the world becomes more digital, the potential for threats goes up significantly. I'm most pleased with the results and look forward to working with the various cyber experts in the region and around the nation."

Clark said, "This is yet another indication of S.C. State taking leadership in various academic areas -- in this case, computer science and engineering.”

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