Vol State Cyber Defense Program Earns NSA Designation

Vol State graduates Mike Massey, left, and Steven Gaebler, right, were recognized by college president, Dr. Orinthia Montague, center


Date:  May 10, 2022
Contact:  Tami Wallace
Office:  615-230-3573 / Cell: 615-935-8335




Vol State Cyber Defense Program Earns NSA Designation

The National Security Agency (NSA) has designated the Volunteer State Community College Cyber Defense program a Center of Academic Excellence. The NSA created the Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) program to foster excellence in academic programs developing students for careers in cyber defense.

Cyber Defense has become more important than ever, as the economy and global community have grown more digitally connected and technology-dependent. To protect sensitive information stored and transmitted on those networks, the demand for cyber defense workers has been exploding. Tennessee’s colleges and universities have responded. Vol State graduated 76 students in Computer Information Technology (CIT) programs last year, up 49 percent in just one year. Nearly half of the college’s CIT graduates came out of the Cyber Defense concentration.

“Cyber defense is absolutely vital to the economic and military security of our country,” said Business and Technology dean, Andy White. “The NSA developed this program to recognize quality academic programs because we must develop the workforce required to secure our information networks. This (CAE) designation validates Vol State as a great place to prepare for an exciting career in cyber defense.”   

To be considered for the CAE designation, colleges undergo a rigorous review that evaluates every aspect of an academic program. Vol State is only the third Tennessee community college to earn the prestigious designation from the National Security Agency. The process at Vol State was a five-year effort, led by Abbas Imam, assistant professor in the department.

“Our program was reviewed closely by cyber defense experts and distinguished faculty from other colleges and universities – and we met and exceeded their standards. This is a great accomplishment for our programs but more importantly, it says we are doing a good job serving our students,” said Imam.  "I was a non-traditional student stepping into a new world when I began my academic journey at Vol State and embarking on an entirely new professional path,” explained John Woodall, a 2019 Summa Cum Laude graduate of the program. “My experience was transformative in every way. Walking out, I felt prepared to pursue my bachelor's degree and a more technical and prosperous career path.”   

The program curriculum prepares students to excel in the workplace in vital jobs such as information security analysts, information technology analysts, and network support specialists. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, information security analyst jobs are projected to increase 33 percent this decade. In addition to Cyber Defense, Vol State also offers Computer Information Technology concentrations in programming and networking. Courses are available at the Gallatin and Livingston campuses as well as online.

Besides Vol State, area high schools are offering more computer science and computer information technology classes, said White. “More and more students are taking these courses in high school. Lots of students find them very interesting and begin planning for careers in these fields. The NSA designation proves the Vol State programs are a great place to prepare for them.”

“My years at Vol State, have been a wonderful experience – particularly the classes I have taken for my CIT Cyber Defense degree. I have learned lots of things that I never had a clue about, and my professors have been extremely helpful. The program provides a great beginning and all the support a student needs to earn their degree,” said Shyanne Ellis, a cyber defense program student and secretary of the college’s Cyber Security Club.

For more information visit www.volstate.edu/CIT.

Photo Caption:  Vol State graduates Mike Massey, left, and Steven Gaebler, right, were recognized by college president, Dr. Orinthia Montague, center, following the graduation ceremony on Saturday. Massey and Gaebler were among the first students to graduate from Vol State’s cyber defense program since the National Security Agency (NSA) designated the program a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE), earlier this spring. Joining the graduates and the president were (left to right), Stephen Wakefield, instructor, Andy White, dean, and instructors Jonathon Pinkerton and Freda Pinkerton.   

# # #