Baylor University Launches Comprehensive Cybersecurity Research and Training Hub to Address Research, Training and Workforce Needs
Central Texas Cyber Range, a $3.5 million partnership between Baylor University and McLennan Community College, is designed to address current and future cybersecurity needs
WACO, Texas (Sept. 7, 2023) – Baylor University today officially launched the Central Texas Cyber Range (CTCR), a multi-million-dollar center to provide comprehensive research in cybersecurity and cyber resilience and training for the cybersecurity workforce to address critical needs at the local, national and international levels. The CTCR, in partnership with McLennan Community College (MCC) in Waco, will specialize in applied research and education.
Representatives from Baylor University and MCC, along with Congressman Pete Sessions (TX-17), celebrated the launch of the CTCR at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.
“We believe that Central Texas can be a leader in developing a qualified workforce to address this pressing need for cybersecurity research and training in our state and in our nation, and the Central Texas Cyber Range is an important step forward in this pursuit,” Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said. “I am deeply grateful for MCC’s partnership and support with Baylor in creating the Central Texas Cyber Range, and to Congressman Pete Sessions, who has been a wonderful advocate and supporter of this project.”
The Cyber Range secured $2.5 million in funding from Department of Education grant awards (P116Z220034 and P116Z230151) through two congressional appropriations championed by Congressman Sessions, more than $1 million in funding from Baylor’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research, as well as some funding from private donors. Partnerships with MCC and industry helped elevate the project from idea to fruition.
“The opening of the Central Texas Cyber Range marks a significant milestone for the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative and the broader Waco community. This state-of-the-art facility is the product of a coordinated vision that I am excited to support in Congress,” said Congressman Sessions. “As America becomes increasingly reliant on digital infrastructure, developing our cybersecurity workforce is no longer optional but essential. This Cyber Range will train students with leading-edge skills to counter cybersecurity threats and graduate professionals in this critical field. I am excited to support projects that help to establish Baylor University, McLennan Community College and McLennan County as national leaders in cybersecurity.”
Partnerships and pathways
Programming and outreach to area schools began this summer, with future initiatives in development, including certification programs and a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity with a pathway from MCC to Baylor. Both MCC and Baylor hold the designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Baylor also is a member of the USCYBERCOM Academic Engagement Network.
“Our faculty and students are excited about the partnership with Baylor University as we work together to nurture future leaders in Central Texas who will make a difference in combatting cybersecurity threats and in developing new research and techniques to respond to these threats,” said MCC President Johnette McKown. “Part of the benefit is developing a seamless transfer for our graduates to Baylor which enriches their lives and also our community.”
Cybersecurity falls within the umbrella of Data Sciences, one of the five signature academic initiatives of Baylor’s Illuminate strategic plan, which provided a roadmap to greater research impact and R1 recognition from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The Central Texas Cyber Range represents a tangible result of the University’s strategic focus and investment.
“Cybersecurity is a matter of high priority for our citizens, our industries and the state. The preparation of cybersecurity professionals to protect our systems and data will take place at our range, serving the entire Central Texas region,” said Baylor Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.
The CTCR is housed within the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), in a 3,000-square foot space outfitted with the latest technology and designed for future expansion.
“Professor Shaun Hutton and Dr. Jeff Donahoo, two of our outstanding faculty in the Department of Computer Science, have successfully led the efforts with our cybersecurity initiatives over the past few years, enabling us to celebrate the opening of the Central Texas Cyber Range facility today,” said Daniel Pack, Ph.D., dean of Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. “What they and their associates have been able to accomplish in establishing the Central Texas Cyber Range is exponentially valuable for our students and for entities across the country in dire need of many skilled and ethical employees in a field that deals with so much sensitive information.”
Education, research and development
Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field whose impact ranges from critical national security infrastructure to the personal accounts of anyone who conducts business online. With that growth comes dramatic opportunity and need for qualified practitioners. A spring Forbes article estimated more than 700,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., with approximately 82,000 of those located in Texas.
The CTCR aims to address those needs through training and education aimed at every age level, from young people in local schools earning various certifications to professionals looking to enhance their skills or job prospects. A proposed joint degree program between Baylor and MCC would provide students with the option to begin their education at MCC and complete it at Baylor, or spend the entirety of their collegiate education at Baylor, depending on their individual needs.
Partnerships with industry and other higher education institutions will expand the range of connections for individuals who engage in CTCR education and training.
“Industry and government need cybersecurity expertise; unfortunately, there is a significant gap between that need and available talent,” said Jeff Donahoo, Ph.D., professor of computer science in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and CTCR director of research and development. “The CTCR is a platform to build economic opportunity. High school graduates can receive a certification that can lead to a job, or individuals can extend their skillset to earn a higher-paying job. A significant part of that arc is the joint degree from MCC and Baylor in cybersecurity, which we are developing as a pathway to provide multiple avenues toward a cybersecurity degree.”
In July, the CTCR held its first high school summer camp, with nearly 70% of participants coming from underrepresented population groups. Future projects include industry and government training and community-focused seminars to bridge the gap between workforce need and individual and community training.
The CTCR’s research endeavors draw from the expertise of recognized faculty in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and MCC. Areas of research focus include cyber resilience and security innovation, with a focus on transformational applied research that grows to address real problems faced by industry and government.
“It takes agility to build a platform like this, and Baylor’s agility through the ability to work with other academic institutions, government and industry partners is demonstrated here,” said Shaun Hutton, clinical associate professor of computer science at Baylor and CTCR executive director. “Everyone has been incredibly supportive in working together to expand training and education offerings that will support our current and future workforce and be an economic driver in Central Texas and beyond.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
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Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) has been preparing its students for more than 25 years as innovators for worldwide impact by training graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian view. Students can choose from majors including bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. ECS also offers graduate programs in all areas of study within the School. We stand out from the crowd through Christian commitment, a strong community, expert accessibility, leading practical experience and teamwork Visit the ECS website to learn more and follow on Facebook and on Instagram.