Mason’s Introduces New Cybersecurity Program

Allie Thompson/Fourth Estate

New program designed to address need for Cyber Security in U.S.


According to an article released by the New York Times in July 2018, the risk of attacks on U.S. infrastructure and financial systems has increased. This concern has been part of the result of the FBI investigation into the Russian government’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

It was stories of hacking like these that motivated Peggy Brouse to work with Northrop Grumman, a global technology and aerospace defense company based in the U.S., to develop an extensive cybersecurity degree program at Mason. Brouse, the current director of Mason’s cybersecurity program, worked with Mike Papay, vice president and chief information security officer at Northrop Grumman, for two years before releasing the program for student enrollment in spring 2015.

A blogpost for Mason News explained what exactly inspired Brouse to develop this program back in 2015. She read an article about an incident where hackers sabotaged the engine of a Jeep Cherokee and decided to contact Papay, suggesting they develop a program to “fight such attacks.”

Since then, Brouse and Papay have continued to work together to adapt the program to prepare students to combat hackers. Executives from Applied Systems and Analytics and Robison International have also contributed to the establishment of this program.

The degree program is the first of its kind in the U.S., and is focused on “safeguarding existing systems and building resilient new ones,” according to a description of the program on the engineering school’s webpage.

The webpage explains the importance of cybersecurity in the U.S.: “This degree provides a foundation in cyber security engineering … it is the most appropriate for students with a strong mathematics and science background.”

Another reason why this program was developed with private companies was the lack of experts in the cybersecurity field pursuing opportunities to teach.

A report published by Northrop Grumman explained that while the need for cybersecurity careers is climbing, many education institutions do not have the ability to provide their students with opportunities to learn about cybersecurity from experts in the field.

Many experts within the field migrate into the private sector of the workforce and work for companies like Northrop Grumman.

Since the program’s introduction, student enrollment has risen significantly over the last three years. Brouse and Papay have worked to develop the program as new security risks arise in the U.S. and abroad.

Students are also expressing an interest in pursuing a career in cybersecurity more and more because of predictions of a drastic increase of opportunities for careers in this particular field.

The Wall Street Journal released a report in May of 2018, predicting that there will be an increase of 265,000 more cybersecurity job opportunities in North America by 2022.

Northrop Grumman assisted in the creation of this program to encourage cybersecurity development: “We can only hope that other schools follow suit.”