We face threats to national and private networks on all fronts, from cyber-terrorism threatening critical infrastructure to malicious viruses and malware targeting personal computers. Now, more than ever, it is essential to ensure the integrity of the internet systems we all depend upon to better protect our personal and national security. The United States faces a severe shortage of cybersecurity professionals and the demand for cyber-enabled graduates is outpacing the nation’s ability to produce qualified professionals. Cybersecurity challenges requires problem-solving, multidisciplinary cooperation and leadership.
The University of Maryland Honors College is excited to offer the first and only honors undergraduate program in cybersecurity. ACES, the Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students, was launched in Fall 2013 with the help of a major gift from Northrop Grumman. The ACES program educates future leaders in the field of cybersecurity by offering a two-year living-learning undergraduate program and a complementary two-year minor in cybersecurity.
Experience, Collaborate, Innovate
The ACES cybersecurity curriculum consists of two linked academic programs over the course of four years: the ACES Living-Learning Program for freshmen and sophomores leading to an Honors College Citation in Cybersecurity (15 credits) and the ACES Minor (16 credits), an academic minor for juniors and seniors. Each year approximately 75 students will enter the living-learning program and approximately 50 students will enter the minor.
Students interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity are encouraged to complete both the ACES Living-Learning Program and the ACES Minor over the course of four years, along with an academic major.
ACES Living-Learning Program
In the ACES Living-Learning Program freshmen and sophomores live and work closely together both in and out of the classroom. The living-learning program curriculum introduces a group of academically talented Honors College students who have an interest in cybersecurity to the hands-on technical and non-technical aspects of the field. It also takes full advantage of the D.C. based companies and government agencies involved in cybersecurity. A co-curricular and pre-professional program related to cybersecurity will complement the academic experience.
The 16 credit ACES Minor focuses on upper-level technical coursework and experiential learning opportunities for students who are capable of and interested in gaining professional training in cybersecurity. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in the living-learning program as peer mentors and tutors. ACES will facilitate regular networking opportunities with corporate and governmental leaders in cybersecurity, helping students to gain mentors and professional contacts. Particularly talented undergraduates who were not part of the ACES Living-Learning Program may apply during their sophomore year to join the ACES Minor as a junior.
The Honors College Community
The Honors College welcomes students into a close knit community of faculty and intellectually gifted undergraduates committed to acquiring a broad and balanced education. The Honors College features small classes taught by outstanding faculty who encourage discussion and foster innovative thinking. Each year, approximately 1,000 undergraduates are invited into this highly selective program.
Students in ACES have access to Honors seminars and departmental H-Version courses throughout their undergraduate careers and will enjoy all other rights and privileges of membership in the Honors College. ACES Minor students will become Honors College students upon admission to the program, regardless of whether they were admitted to Honors College earlier in their academic careers.
Learn from Industry Leaders
Industry plays a vital role in the success and impact of the ACES program and in the professional development of ACES scholars. The close partnership between ACES and the program’s industry partners, such as the founding sponsor Northrop Grumman, and key federal agencies, like the National Security Agency (NSA), will include sustained engagement between the students, faculty and industry representatives. Industry representatives will:
- Co-develop new courses to help ensure that the competencies needed by industry are addressed
- Participate in guest lectures for ACES students
- Provide real world problems that student teams will address
- Develop multi-year internship programs tied to students’ course work
- Contribute advisors and mentors for capstone projects
Reinforce Learning through Hands-On Experience
ACES students combine the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom with real world, flexible and hands-on experiences. With the ideal proximity of the University of Maryland to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, students have the opportunity to participate in academic term and summer internships with federal agencies with cybersecurity expertise such as the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Security Agency (NSA), as well as with private firms like Northrop Grumman. Students gain a working knowledge of the needs and demands of industry in the cybersecurity field and may have the chance to complete the security clearance process.
Team Learning and Leadership Opportunities
Students are encouraged to participate in leadership opportunities within ACES. The ACES Cybersecurity Competition Team currently has over 40 members who participate in a variety of cybersecurity competitions in the state and the region, including the Maryland Cyber Challenge and Competition and the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Other leadership opportunities within the program include the the ACES Student Board, a student leadership organization, and the Honors College Student Ambassadors organization. In addition, ACES students take a leadership role in educating and making recommendations for the entire university community about basic cyber hygiene through their HACS100 group project.