MCC celebrates new cybersecurity lab and the program’s national recognition

MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty (right) presents a plaque of appreciation to Truman Heartland Community Foundation board chair Tracey Mershon (from left) and CEO Phil Hanson. (Photos by Andrew Ryan and Tim Engle/MCC)

Metropolitan Community College-Blue River’s new state-of-the-art cybersecurity lab was celebrated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 30.

The growing program’s headquarters aims to be “the region’s premier center for information technology and cybersecurity education and training,” MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty said at the event.

The new 2,000-square-foot lab contains computers, workstations, a 24-person conference table and, most significantly, its own private network and server.

“We have the ability to operate completely isolated from the campus’ normal network, which allows us to train people at a higher level and use some of the tools we wouldn’t normally be allowed to use,” says Brian Hurley, MCC cybersecurity program coordinator.

“Not only is it brand-new space, it’s also representative of how unique it is that we’re one of just 70 community colleges with the National Center of Academic Excellence designation,” Hurley adds. That’s 70 out of a total of 1,260 community colleges.

The lab, in the Public Safety building at Blue River, is made possible through $100,000 in funding from the Truman Heartland Community Foundation.

“It truly is an amazing gift that helps us train a workforce that is desperately needed,” Dr. Beatty told the ribbon-cutting audience, which included Truman Heartland president/CEO Phil Hanson and several board members.

MCC-Blue River has been receiving $25,000 in gifts from Truman Heartland each year for the last 10 years. The last four years of funding were dedicated to the cybersecurity lab.

Interim MCC-Blue River president Michael Banks

The foundation has been supporting projects at Blue River for years, interim campus president Dr. Michael Banks said. In 1996-97, for example, Truman Heartland provided $15,000 for a telecommunications program of study, which would have been cutting-edge at the time.

“It’s a long and very strong relationship and we look forward to that relationship continuing,” Banks said at the ceremony.

The new space is just the latest feather in the cap of MCC’s growing cybersecurity program. Last year the College was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. MCC is one of about 200 U.S. colleges and universities with that top-tier designation, among them just 70 two-year colleges.

“Having this designation is a high bar that we have to adhere to in terms of our processes and our curriculum,” Chancellor Beatty says.

The Centers of Academic Excellence program is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. The CAE designation goes to colleges with “robust degree programs and close alignment to specific cybersecurity-related knowledge units (KUs), validated by top subject matters in the field.”

About 200 students are enrolled in MCC’s cybersecurity program. They can earn an associate in applied science (A.A.S.) degree in secure systems administration and engineering or one of the three stackable certificates mapped to industry certifications that make up that degree.

MCC’s program prepares students to enter the in-demand information technology and cybersecurity fields by blending current system administration concepts with essential security skills and best practices necessary to deploy, administer, harden and defend computer and network systems.

Learn more about MCC’s cybersecurity program:

Here’s a story from the Examiner about the growing program and growing demand:

More photos from the ribbon-cutting ceremony:

Hanson (from left), Beatty, Mershon and Banks get their scissors ready.
Cybersecurity program coordinator Brian Hurley with Chancellor Kimberly Beatty
The event was held in the lobby of the Public Safety building at MCC-Blue River.
Hurley shows off the new 2,000-square-foot lab to visitors.
The cybersecurity lab includes lots of computer monitors, of course, but also its own dedicated network and server.

Fox 4’s Kathy Quinn did two live shots from the cybersecurity lab that morning. Here’s one of them: