Webinar: Online Master of Science in Cyber Security Information Session

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Dr. Emanuel Grant, program director for the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Science in Cyber Security, joins a UND enrollment advisor to provide an overview of the program.


Paul Donaldson: Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to University of North Dakota Online webinar for the Master of Science in Cyber Security program. Again, my name is Paul Donaldson, and I am one of the enrollment advisors here at UND for the Cyber Security program.

Now, before we get started just a couple housekeeping items to address. In your window, you should see the box where you’ll be able to type in your questions. And so, feel free to type your questions in there at any time. Now, we will hold off on addressing those questions until we get closer to the end of the presentation, but we will respond to all those questions, so don’t feel you have to wait until then.

So, we’re going to go ahead and get started here. Again, I’m Paul, I’m one of the advisors here. And, also, joining us today is our director here at UND for the Cyber Security program, Dr. Emanuel. And I will be introducing him here shortly, and he will present his information as far as giving you a introduction into his background. He will be sharing with us this afternoon his wealth of experience, and the information. As well as sharing with you his passion for this program. So, we look forward to Dr. Emanuel presenting that to us.

And so, at this time, I would like to introduce Dr. Emanuel Grant, who will present his information to you at this time.

Dr. Emanuel Grant: Thank you very much, Paul. Good day to you all. My name’s Emanuel Grant, and I’ve come to UND starting out in Kingston, Jamaica where I was born. Completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the local University of the West Indies. Then, I came to Florida, attending Florida Atlantic University, where I completed a Master’s degree in computer science as well, and started a PhD there in computer science. And from there I transferred over to Colorado State, where I completed my degree in computer science PhD there.

I started at UND in August 2002 as an assistant professor. And in 2008, I was promoted to the position of an associate professor, and been here ever since. Two years ago, the Department of Computer Science, in which I originally lectured, merged with the School of Electrical Engineering in the Engineering Department. And so, we became the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

I’ve completed an internship at NASA Ames Research Center just prior to leaving Colorado State, where I worked on a very sophisticated system there for them that handled the development of auto generated program for their space exploration system. Since then, here at UND, I worked on a very large project, which was titled the International Space Station Agricultural Camera system, ISSAC. And that involved work with the undergrad students, graduate students, and other faculty members in developing a system that is on board the International Space Station. That system provides agricultural data to farmers in a five state region by capturing images of their land, their farms from the camera system on the International Space Station, and providing them with analysis of the data, so they can make determination as to the state of their farmland. The other major project I’ve worked on here at UND is what is known as UAS Risk Mitigation system. And this was done in conjunction with the Department of Defense, where we sought to develop a system for monitoring air space for the use of flight operation by unmanned aerial vehicles.

I was appointed director of the Online Cyber Security program here in the fall of 2019. And since then, I’ve operated in that capacity. I must say that I am very excited and passionate about working in this position. The relationship I have with students is slightly different from the in class environment. And so, while its new and challenging, it’s also very exciting to be involved with students and, particularly, in doing a webinar of this nature is one of the new features, which I look forward to discovering new ground in this program.

And that’s about it for me here. Thanks a lot Paul.

Paul Donaldson: Thank you Dr. Grant, we appreciate you sharing some of your background and your insights with us. And so, we look forward to being able to address the questions from our attendees this afternoon, and you’ll be able to share some more detailed information with them.

So, we’ve reached the point now, why do students choose North Dakota to pursue their graduate education? The way that this program is designed, it’s designed for individuals that are interested in pursuing cyber as a career change, so the program accommodates that goal. As well as accommodating goals for individuals that are already in the IT field, or working in cyber security in some capacity. So, it actually makes our program here at UND pretty unique. So, the program offers graduate level education to give you the skill to lead the way in increasing cyber attacks. So, that’s kind of what makes us unique is that we actually can accommodate both goals.

Now, UND, when you’re looking at a school and you’re considering why you are considering a particular school and a particular program, obviously, what you’re looking for is quality. And we can guarantee that because we’ve been an institution that’s been around for a long time. As a matter fact, the institution has been around since 1983, we’re actually older than the actual state of North Dakota. So, we’ve been providing and educating for over 135 years, and leading individuals and pioneers of tomorrow, and pushing forward.

And, as you can see, we’re a ranked school. We’re ranked in the top 30 and best online schools, in the top 200 schools for overall public schools, and in the top 100 of four year colleges for adult learners. So, from that perspective, you should feel comfortable that you’ll be making a decision to pursue your graduate level education with a quality institution.

One of the things that I encounter quite a bit as an advisor from individuals is they’re looking to transition from one career to another. And the biggest concerns that they generally have are making that transition, so that career opportunities within the field, and areas like that. And so, if you have questions like that I’m not going to address that here now, but that’s one of the questions you can pose. You can take that into your box there, and then we will address that question for you when we get to the question and answer. But when you look to the career outlook, and I’ll speak to that in general, if you’ve done research into the cyber security field, what you’re going to learn is that the cyber security field right now has a lot of potential and opportunity within it.

As a matter of fact, when you look at the research it actually tells you that there are more positions available in this field than there are individuals to fill them. So, what that tells me is that this field for individuals that are looking to pursue this as a career, then the career outlook is very, very good. I would also take that one step further, and say that cyber security, as far as a career, is very global because we’re not talking about where it’s just isolated to major metropolitan areas, or isolated to just the United States. This is a career that you can take global. Any metropolitan city in the world, really, or when you really look at the industry globally, all industries globally, today, have to have cyber security as paramount, at the forefront of their business models to secure information. So, if you’re considering this as a career opportunity this is the perfect time to pursue your education.

So, what’s in it for you? Here at UND, one of the things that we have done a little bit differently is that enrollment advisors, we actually assign an enrollment advisor and that advisor is dedicated to you. So, should you choose to apply for admission to our program you will be assigned an individual like myself, an enrollment advisor. And I will work with you from the beginning throughout the entire admissions process. So, from beginning to end you work with one advisor. And you’re not going to be passed around from one person to the next. So, when you have a conversation with me, we talk about your goals, we answer all your questions, when you call back in you will be directed to me. I already know about you, we’ve already developed a relationship, I know where you are in the application process, I know where you are in the decision process. So, you don’t have to call back in to repeat things over, and over, and over, and over again.

Another thing that we do that’s a little bit differently is that once you become a student, from the first day of class there is a transition just prior to that and I take you through that. But, by that time, you’ve already been assigned to a student support coach. The student support coach comes into play, or becomes more a part of your experience as a student once you actually start classes. Again, that individual is dedicated, and they work with you from that point all the way through to graduation. So, you’re able to develop a familiarity with that individual, they already know about your background, they already understand what’s going on with you academically.

We provide technology for you, such as Office 365, and there are some other benefits that once you become a student, there are certain softwares, any specialized software that you may need you can receive at a discount. Also, you can count on the reliability of competent, professional, caring and dedicated faculty. We’re here for your success. Our instructors are available to you, you’ll interact with them via phone, you’ll interact with them via email. In some cases, where it’s available, the possibility is there you can connect with your advisor via web. So, we try to be as flexible, and connect with you as much as we can on your terms to address your concerns, to address your questions as you are going through the class. And you should’ve heard a little bit about that on that passion from Dr. Grant where he shared his passion for the program, passion for students, and his passion for utilizing technology as a tool in education.

Now, when you look at our curriculum, this is another thing that I believe separates us. It’s modern, it’s current but, more importantly, we offer the flexibility of individuals to be able to kind of choose the direction that they want to. For example, we offer data security is one of those specializations, you might’ve seen that on the curriculum there. Data security, if you want to learn about defensive strategies in cyber security, that’s an option for you. Autonomous systems and, you heard from Dr. Grant that, this is an area that he has experience in. So, these classes offer you the flexibility to be able to kind of tailor make your education according to how you choose it. If you want to get into more of the psychological aspect of cyber security, then, we have that also as a specialization that you can choose from.

One other point that’s important is that we also offer students the ability to now actually select a specialization. You can go with a general track, which allows the students to be able to select specific courses from any one of those chosen areas. Now, I just want to note here that this is a conversation that you would have with one of our advisors to help determine maybe which, as far as giving you the best option as far specialization. Now, when it comes to selecting a general track we’re very cautious with that because we find that, as advisors, it’s better for students to have a specific track, so that way we can tailor the curriculum according to that track. So, that’s a conversation that we would have one-on-one with you, if you were choosing to apply to our program.

Now, the curriculum itself, as I just discussed, we have the foundation courses that all students must go through upon being accepted to the program. And that’s where you will cover two primary areas that we’re going to address right up front, and that’s going to be computer programming, specifically C++, and we’re also going to cover calculus. That will be covered in the first semester. Now, again, depending on your specialization will determine kind of the rest of curriculum for you. But, as you can see from that slide, all students take 12 credits of the core classes, followed by your electives.

Now, as far as the program overview itself, I want to make you aware that this program is 100% online. There are no campus visits required. You take two seven-week courses each semester. And the nice thing about this is that you’re able to take each of those classes one at a time. Kind of give you an idea of what that looks like, our semesters are 15 weeks long, so students take a seven week class, then they get a week break, and then they come back and they jump into that second seven week class. If you complete the program exactly as it is designed and take no other breaks, other than those brakes that are already built in, you can complete this program in just under two years, which is 20 months to complete. You’re going to satisfy the requirement to complete 30 semester hours. And tuition for the program is $816, now, that does not include the $71 university fee. So, then, when you add that, that does bring the tuition to $887 a credit. And there is a small application fee of only $35.

If you decide to apply for admission to the program we’re going to require that you submit to us transcripts from all post secondary schools that you’ve attempted. So, you’ll need to show completion of a bachelor’s degree. Keep in mind that we are not requiring you to have a bachelor’s degree, for example, in computer science, information technology. We get applicants from a variety of different backgrounds, it’s another strength of our program because of the fact that we don’t require you to have a background in IT, or computer science, or something like that.

We’ll be looking for a minimum grade point average of a 2.75 cumulative. We also require three references and, as you can see, we suggest one from an employer, one from a professional reference, or academic, and one from a person of your choosing. You’ll also need to provide a statement of purpose, which should be about 1 to 2 pages long detailing, or describing your motivation to pursue your graduate degree, what your objective is. And then, anything else that you feel relevant that will bring light to you as an applicant in the program. And I, usually, recommend also sharing what it was about UND that made you select our program because we’re very interested in you sharing your thoughts about what it is that made you make that decision. A resume, or a CV is also required. And then, you have the application fee of $35.

Now, as far as financial aid, to kind of give you a general overview of that, financial aid is fight is available. We recommend, as advisors, that right after you complete the applications to go ahead and submit your FAFSA application, so that our financial aid office can get your student aid report. A financial aid decision will not be made until you’ve actually been accepted to the program here at UND, at which time our financial aid office will determine your award amount pending that you are eligible to receive federal aid. We also have other financial options, as you can see there, as the McNair Scholars, Employer Tuition Reimbursement, we accept GI Bill, Post 9/11. So, bottom line is we are military friendly, as well as accepting private student loans.

So, pretty much that is the program overview. Kind of touched on the curriculum, and shared some of my insights about the admissions process. So, at this time, I would like to transition to the question and answer segment of the webinar, and to be able to answer any of those questions that you may have there. So, I’ll just give individuals a few moments to go ahead and type their questions in, then we’ll go ahead and start answering those questions.

Alright, so a couple of questions here. First one, “Are there any scholarships available for this program?” Emanuel, I think, I’ll reach out to you to respond to that question. So, the attendee is asking, “Are there any scholarships for this program?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: There are no specific scholarships, particularly, within UND for this program. But students have access to any … well, there is federal financial aid for those who are eligible. And I think you covered this in your presentation, Paul. There are also private student loans available to students in the program. Scholarships are also available through a number of organizations that have affiliations with computer science. For instance, there is the Association of Computing Machinery, which is a professional and student organization for computer science students and professionals. They offer a number of scholarships on a competitive basis to student members.

There are also scholarships available through the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the IEEE and, similar to the ACM, this is the engineering organization for students and professionals. And they do offer scholarships for persons who are in academic programs as well. Those are two of the academic organizations that offer scholarships that applicants to our program here may be eligible to apply to.

Paul Donaldson: Oh, thank you for that. I’ll also add that there is scholarships.com, that students can go to. You’ll just put in your general information, it will ask you some background information. And with that what that will do is it will make suggestions for scholarships that you may be eligible for. So, again, that is scholarships.com, so that’s another option for you.

Paul Donaldson: We do have another question here Dr. Grant, “With no background in cyber security what are the chances of getting a job after completing this program?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: Well, having completed this program you do, now, have a background in cyber security, as a quick answer to that question. But coming out of this program, currently, the US Department of Labor project that by the end of this year, 2020, and these are figures that were initially presented, I think, five years ago, that there will be approximately over 1 million unfilled position in the area of data science/cyber security within the United States alone. And, as Paul mentioned in his presentation earlier, cyber security is not limited to just the geographical or the technological boundaries of the United States, it’s an international thing. So, when you look at 1 million position unfilled here in the United States it’s very indicative of what is happening across the entire globe. So, the opportunities of employment I can venture to suggest that it’s almost guaranteed that there will be job openings that you’re eligible to apply for.

And so, this is what’s [inaudible 00:26:31] with a degree in computer science puts you, now, in that high demand field where salaries are pretty much on the rise because of the demand that is there, and the shortage of educated persons to fill these positions.

Paul Donaldson: All right, thank you for that. I see another question here for Dr. Grant. So, attendee is asking, “My company’s policy for education reimbursement is that reimbursement will be made upon satisfactory completion of a course. Would I have to pay the tuition before completion? Or is it possible to pay once money is provided by the employer?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: Payment will have to be made prior to enrollment. There is no system in place, right now, to account for post payment for the courses. And so, the payment will have to be made prior to enrollment and commencement of class.

Paul Donaldson: All right, thank you Dr. Grant. I do see another here. “Hello, I was told by an admission counselor that the core calculus will no longer be provided for this particular program. Is that not the case anymore?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: I’m not quite sure. What do you mean by … Will you repeat the question? Just repeat the question.

Paul Donaldson: Sure. “I was told by an admission counselor that the core calculus will no longer be provided for this particular program. Is that not the case anymore?” So, I’m assuming, what they’re asking here, Dr. Grant, is they’re assuming that calculus is no longer required for the program.

Dr. Emanuel Grant: No, that is incorrect. Calculus and programming are two fundamental areas for this program. And so, this is why the foundation course was created to address … because we do recognize that there are a number of applicants who are coming into the program without the necessary calculus and programming background. And the foundation course was created specifically to address the needs of those students. So, yes, calculus is and will continue to be required here.

Paul Donaldson: So, following up on that, there’s a question here that says, “I have no background in math or programming, will this be a disadvantage?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: I would not refer to it as a disadvantage. What it does is make it a bit more challenging. And, going back, the foundation course was developed specifically to address applicants, like the question here, wherein you may not have the background. And so, the foundation course was designed for that.

Now, the challenge there is that the foundation course covers a very broad spectrum of topics in calculus and programming. And so, there is a need for students to really apply themself in going through that course. It’s challenging in terms of the quantity of work that is involved, but it is the basic entry level to calculus and programming that is presented in that course. It’s just that it’s a very broad spectrum of topics that are covered, and so it requires a commitment, a time commitment chiefly towards getting through that program, that course.

Paul Donaldson: Thank you, Dr. Grant. Here’s another question, “What resources are going to be available other than the instructor to provide help taking the programming and taking calculus considering I have no background?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: Upon admission, one of the things that we do during the admission evaluation process is to look at your transcript, and try to make a determination just how extensive, or absent there might be of the applicant’s background in calculus and programming. And if we do determine that there is any deficiency we provide to the applicant a list of online tutorials in calculus and programming, which they can then go through prior to enrollment. And so, it’s a pre-enrollment recommendation to take these tutorial programs, which will then and now prepare you, if you come in with absolutely no background in the calculus and programming. Then, this pre-enrollment recommended tutorial list will help you be a step up and ready, now, to launch into the foundation program. So, we do, do that in anticipation that yes, there are some applicants coming in without that knowledge, and this is an additional aid that is presented to the applicant, which they will avail themselves of it. It’s a recommendation not a requirement.

Paul Donaldson: Thank you. I see another question here it says, “Is the foundation course required if I have a background of programming and calculus?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: Yes, the foundation course is required because it is part of the entire program. So, the foundation course has to be completed. Though we have not encountered a case of this is that if you had a course that is equivalent, then there could be the possibility of credits being offered for having completed courses in a similar description. So, that transfer credit would obtain in that case.

Paul Donaldson: All right, thank you for that. Let me see, I do see another question here. “Since this is a specific specialty in IT, what resources that students can reach out to that will be a sort of guidance with assisting them in looking for careers, or internships, et cetera upon graduation?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: That’s a good question there. There are a number of … and, again, I can point to the organization, the IEE and the ACM. Those two organization do post a list of job openings in a number of computer science sub-discipline area and cyber security. Data science, AI, some of the sub-discipline areas that they provide listings of jobs that have been registered through them. There are a number of other organizations that provide this type of service. There is, for instance, somewhat in the social media realm there is LinkedIn, through which a number of job postings are made as well. So, these are sources that are available to you. But officially I can recommend the ACM and IEEE as information sources for job openings because these organization also vet submissions to their posting website.

And so, there’s also almost a guarantee that things that are listed there are authentic and reputable because, as I said, with such a large number of positions that are unfilled there are a number of agencies that are coming into play, online service committing to provide you with linkage to these jobs for a fee. And some of them are not reliable, so I would recommend that you think of using the rapid reputable ones, the two I’ve recommended or three, the ACM, the IEEE, LinkedIn are two good sources.

And if you’re working anywhere in industry, as well, you might be rather knowledgeable of some of the professional agencies, reputable ones that provide some of these services also.

Paul Donaldson: I had another question, “Given that I don’t have a background in cyber security, I’m assuming that I would have to look at, initially, entry-level opportunities. Can you give me an example of the type of entry-level opportunities I should be looking for?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: Some of those entry-level opportunities are with the smaller companies that provide a lot of online service. These small companies themselves may not be able to compete with a larger company say, for instance, a large company like Boeing, which employs a lot of cyber security developers. So, these smaller companies can’t compete in that field, but what they’re doing is providing you with an opportunity to gain experience that will now make you more marketable to these larger higher-paying companies. And so, you’d probably want to look coming into the profession, or coming from a program like this, where you may not have had any job experience there towards seeking employment with the smaller companies because the larger ones tend to attract the more experienced practitioners out there. And you’ll be going up and competing against persons who may have had a few years experience versus your zero years. And so, I would say to you look to the smaller more local companies that have openings in this area as an entry-level point for you.

Paul Donaldson: Alrighty, thank you. I have another question, “Will this program prepare me to complete any certifications?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: This program in of itself is beyond the certification area. Certifications tend to usually tie to a particular technology, or tool, or … yes, a particular technology or tool that is in use in the professional area. What you come out of this program with is the skill set that would allow you to not only be certified in these areas, but to be able to, with your experience, develop certification programs. Or be able to address the needs in putting together a certification program. So, you come out of this thing a number of levels above a certification program. And, essentially then, what that gives you is when you go to be certified in one of these other areas you’re going there with a distinct advantage over someone who has not been through a program like this because you have that higher-level knowledge of understanding the where, and the why, and the how that are presented in these certification programs.

Paul Donaldson: Okay, thank you. I do see another question related to certifications again. So, they’re asking, actually, “Is there any particular certification that should be completed after finishing this program? If so …” Actually, “For example, Security+, when will be the best time to complete certifications?”

Dr. Emanuel Grant: I’m not familiar with Certification+ but, in terms of certification, certification is usually tied very much to the organization and the type of work you’re engaged in. And so, that said, the organization themself would be the ones who are, probably, driving the need for certification. And so, if you’re looking to work in a particular sector of the cyber security field there may be some programs that are geared for those specific sectors in which you can be certified. So, it all depends on what sector you may want to be working in, and also for an organization you’re interested in working with, what sort of tools, or technology is in use there that necessitate, or may allow for certification. And so, you may look towards that there.

But coming out of a program like this you could seek certification in a particular area that you know, but then you end up being employed in an organization that is not using that technology or tool, and so that certification doesn’t really do anything for you there. And so, what you want to do is to look at what sector of the security professional field I want to be, and then identify what are the technology, the tools used in that sector, and then seek certification there. Or, if you do end up being employed in an organization, find out what are the technology in place there that have certification associated with them, and then seek after those.

Paul Donaldson: Thank you Dr. Grant for your time, and for answering those questions. Definitely shows your knowledge, and your expertise within the industry. And for those of you that took the time this afternoon to spend with us, I want to thank you for your time today and listening. So, giving us the opportunity to share our passion for this program.

Now, I just want to highlight a couple of points to you before we wrap up this afternoon. Right now, we are accepting applications for our summer term, and keep in mind we accept applications three times a year. So, that gives you the flexibility to start this program in any one of those terms, which will be summer, fall, and spring. Right now, again, deadline for summer is April 1st, classes are scheduled to begin May 18th. If you’re interested in applying for our summer term, or if you have additional questions I’d like you, please contact directly. You can contact me at … now, I do see here my contact number it’s showing as 701, and you can reach me there. But my toll free is 888-872-5986 extension 5030. Again, 888-872-5986 extension 5030. And you can see my email contact information there, if you’d like to email me any further questions that you may have. Or if you’d like me to send you out a program summary. I’m available to provide any information that you may need.

I want to thank you, again, for joining us this afternoon. And hope that we will hear back from some of you in regards to this program. Thank you, have a good afternoon. Bye-bye.