Waterville — Thomas College will receive $974,000 from the federal government to expand its cybersecurity program and help more students gain a foothold in a rapidly growing field.
The funding is part of the $10.2 million allocated to Maine’s colleges and universities and workforce development programs from a massive total spending bill approved by Congress last month.
According to university president Thomas Edwards, the money Thomas receives will be used in several ways, including tuition assistance, scholarships, technology upgrades, and professional development of staff and students.
“We are all affected and rely on security,” says Edwards. “We have to invest in infrastructure, invest in knowledge, like we do with electricity and other types of infrastructure that we have. We can ensure that we have the best talent available: technology and change.”
Frank Uppun, a professor of cybersecurity at Thomas University, said that as technology advances, it not only creates more value for businesses, but also creates new risks. Cybersecurity is the work of minimizing these risks and protecting their value.
“Technology has allowed us to offer something new, better and more affordable,” says Appunn. “But with technology comes new risks, too. So as technology creates value, we also need to defend against the abuse that it can create.”
Companies, government agencies, nonprofits, schools, hospitals, and many other sectors of the economy need cybersecurity experts. Criminals can use malware to shut down your business or steal your personal data. Criminals may also be looking for unexpected information. Apung said it’s like the name of a young child who has never opened a bank account and whose identity could be used for money laundering.
And as the use of technology expands across industries, the demand for cybersecurity knowledge is growing, especially as the pandemic forces many to work remotely or hybridly.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average wage for an information security analyst is $102,600 in 2021, and job openings for these workers are expected to grow 35% over the decade to 2031, which is Far above average job growth. 5% for the same period. About 19,500 information security analyst jobs are projected each year through 2031.
“We know these are high paying jobs. We know these are high paying careers. We also know that the ability to operate is important, and it’s going to be very important for the economy of the future,” Edwards said. “So I think this is a win for everyone by looking at the students we serve and giving them a direct path to the really best career path.”
According to Appunn, the university has relationships with several companies that offer jobs to cybersecurity graduates, and the university can easily place twice as many students in those companies alone.
“Companies are having a hard time finding people with cyber skills,” said Appunn.
Appunn said the programs at Thomas College are designed to be accessible to students from all backgrounds. The university currently offers a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a Cybersecurity Focus, and a Certificate in Advanced Studies.
Appunn has been involved in the development of this program since its inception in 2013. Part of the curriculum goal is to provide a broad education that enables students to acquire not only technical skills, but also communication and business skills.
Take Daniel DeMiro, for example. She studied criminal justice at Thomas and found herself working in a bank, doing physical security, and focusing on money laundering. But she has found her company and the financial industry to be subject to more and more digital attacks. She had the opportunity to work in technology and she enjoyed it.
She didn’t have a background in computer science, but decided to pursue a master’s degree in cybersecurity from Thomas. She had to do some self-study beforehand to keep up with her technical skills, but she graduated with a degree in 2020, and just a few weeks later she was ready for a higher level job. I found
Currently, she works as an Assurance Practice Manager at Tyler Technologies, where she manages personnel who test and find weaknesses in client security systems. She said Thomas’ class prepared her for a role that not only required technical know-how, but also required her to manage people and handle budgets.
“It didn’t teach me everything, but it taught me how to think, how to make sense of things, which is huge,” DeMiro said. “It’s not just teaching material, it’s a way to use your skills to make sense of what you don’t know. I think that’s a huge accomplishment from the program. It’s literally been a game changer for my career.”
Timeline of Alleged Abuse