BHEF Members Dedicate Innovative Cybersecurity Lab at California Polytechnic University

Premier Facility and New Undergraduate Curriculum Showcase BHEF’s Model of Strategic Business Engagement and Demonstrate Progress of its National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative

San Luis Obispo (January 27) — Last Thursday, Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) members Jeffrey D. Armstrong, president, California Polytechnic University, and Wes Bush, chairman, CEO, and president, Northrop Grumman Corporation, unveiled the Cal Poly–Northrop Grumman Cyber Lab, a state-of-the-art undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity teaching facility. The first of its kind in the United States, the Cyber Lab encourages innovation and creates an educational framework that gives faculty and students the opportunity to engage with experts from other higher education institutions, private businesses, defense and government agencies, and research labs.

The new cyber lab epitomizes Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy in which classroom learning is integrated with hands-on applications and solutions to real-world challenges.  The educational initiative in cybersecurity has developed hand-in-hand with BHEF’s member-led regional workforce projects, which are creating new undergraduate pathways in emerging fields across the country. Through BHEF’s National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative (HEWI), members collaborate to develop and advance innovative solutions to the nation’s most significant education and workforce challenges, thus enhancing U.S. global competitiveness. The public and private entities partnering on the cybersecurity effort at Cal Poly include BHEF members Cal Poly, Northrop Grumman, Parsons and Raytheon.

The university’s cyber educational initiative—which includes the Cal Poly–Northrop Grumman Cyber Lab, a cybersecurity council and a robust cybersecurity curriculum—reflects BHEF’s strategy to scale workforce solutions through networks, specifically its National Cybersecurity Network. Designed to educate students in cybersecurity awareness, engineering, and business applications of cyber technologies, the initiative will prepare cyber innovators for advanced studies and applied research in emerging issues, and produce well-trained experts to serve in the national defense industry and the intelligence community.

“Through this lab, our students will learn from the very best in the industry and experience in real time some of the emerging challenges they will face in their careers as cyber experts,” said Armstrong. “That opportunity is unprecedented in education, and particularly unheard of at the undergraduate level. This initiative is so much more than a state-of-the-art lab. It’s a partnership with the best in the business.”

A hands-on educational component of the project, this new lab includes 32 workstations, projectors, a presentation center, and extensive whiteboard space that will enable students and faculty to experience real-world simulations, including experimentation in network security and cyber defense, exploitation, attack, research and development, analytics, and visualization. The lab has an adjacent service center offering a robust research environment that includes essential elements for an enterprise-scale information technology operation.

Northrop Grumman helped design and configure the lab, which also provides Cal Poly students and faculty expanded educational and research capabilities through online access to the Northrop Grumman Virtual Cyber Lab. Eventually, cybersecurity courses may include cryptography engineering, the study of cutting-edge malware research and analysis, and examination of major Internet controversies that arise from policy, law, and technology.

Brian Fitzgerald, CEO of BHEF noted: “The Cal Poly–Northrop Grumman Cyber Lab is an exemplary model of a highly successful partnership between higher education and business that promotes innovation and addresses the nation’s critical workforce needs in the ever-changing field of cybersecurity. This BHEF member-led regional project marks a crucial step toward the goal of engaging students in innovative programs in emerging fields and aligning undergraduate education with regional workforce needs.”

In 2012, BHEF created the National Cybersecurity Network to increase collaboration between its members’ campuses working in cyber. In just one year, the network has grown from seven to more than twenty academic institutions—a testament to the success of BHEF’s theory of action for creating national impact by scaling highly innovative partnerships between business and higher education in emerging fields that drive a region’s competitive economic advantage.

About the National Cybersecurity Network
The BHEF National Cybersecurity Network brings distinguished leaders from business, higher education, and government together to increase collaboration and resources during the first two years of college, which has been shown as the turning point in STEM undergraduate education. Through BHEF’s model of strategic engagement, BHEF business and academic members are introducing innovative new programs in cyber to help students persist and complete degrees that will lead to successful careers as cyber-professionals.

About the Business-Higher Education Forum
Now in its 36th year, BHEF is the nation's oldest membership organization of Fortune 500 CEOs, prominent college and university presidents, and other leaders dedicated to advancing innovative education and workforce solutions and improving U.S. competitiveness. BHEF's business and academic members collaborate in regions across the country to design and deploy education-workforce solutions in the high-demand and emerging fields that are so critical to innovation and national security. BHEF and its members drive change locally, work to influence public policy at the national and state levels, and inspire other leaders to act.