Cybersecurity center opens

Cybersecurity centerMessiah University’s Cyber Center, which offers real-world training for cybersecurity majors, opened this fall.

Vinny Sakore, who had worked in information technology (IT) and cybersecurity for more than 20 years, was a natural fit for the role as the director of cybersecurity education at Messiah. He says Randy Basinger, the former provost of Messiah, approached him a few years ago about forming developing the cybersecurity program.

“I said, ‘Randy, you need a business guy to launch this program. This is like starting a company. You need brand development, marketing and recruiting,’” said Sakore.

Soon, the center became a reality, and the first cohort of seven cybersecurity students graduated in May. Currently, 46 students are pursuing this major. There was a learning curve for the students and Sakore.

“I’ve been working with the top people in the field for 20+ years. In the business world. You train people, then you turn them loose. They can figure the rest out,” he said. “To have a first-year student, the knowledge gap was huge. I had to reset my expectations and turn on my nurture gene. It’s not training. It’s teaching, which I love. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the student interaction. Because of the small class size at Messiah, the classes feel almost like a small group.”

Messiah University is going through the application requirements to become a National Security Agency Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-ED), a distinctive hallmark of excellence for cybersecurity education.

The Cyber Center, a key component of the program, is made up of two rooms. One room is an educational classroom, which is holds 50 people and is designed for teaching, educational events, etc. The second room is a security operations center for juniors and seniors, where they work on real data on live systems.

“We have students monitoring systems for threats almost every day of the week,” he said. “We have been able to increase our coverage and strengthen the University’s security posture.”

They also learn ethical business practices.

“Businesses are mini congregations,” said Sakore. “All of the same gifts that show up in church show up in business. Because [co-workers] get to witness you day in and day out, their testimony is stronger than when you see them only from time to time.”

Sakore says everyone benefits in the company culture if it incorporates the culture of Christ. He also teaches students to lead laterally, creating opportunities for students to lead each other.

“It’s all about the relationship combination of being kind and helping somebody. The Biblical version is sowing and reaping. If you’re kind and helpful, the person will probably be kind and helpful back,” he said.

Through the center, Messiah is preparing students for working in the real world. They gain hands-on job experience as cybersecurity analysts, providing security monitoring, digital forensics and other services to local and regional businesses.

“When they graduate, they graduate with a four-year degree and two years of solid work experience,” said Sakore. “We’ve have a high degree of success with our students getting internships and jobs.”

--Anna Seip