Asee peer logo

Partnership to Prepare Students for Careers in the Emerging Field of Cybersecurity

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Computing and Information Technology Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Computing and Information Technology

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


James K. Nelson Jr. P.E. Texas A&M University

visit author page

Dr. James K. Nelson received a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Dayton in 1974. He received the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in civil engineering from the University of Houston. During his graduate study, Dr. Nelson specialized in structural engineering. He is a registered professional engineer in three states, a Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom, and a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is also a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and the SAFE Association.
Prior to receiving his Ph.D. in 1983, Dr. Nelson worked as a design engineer in industry and taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston and Texas A&M University at Galveston. In industry he was primarily involved in design of floating and fixed structures for the offshore petroleum industry. After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Nelson joined the civil engineering faculty at Texas A&M University. He joined the civil engineering faculty at Clemson University in 1989 as Program Director and founder of the Clemson University Graduate Engineering Programs at The Citadel and became Chair of Civil Engineering in 1998.
In July 2002, Dr. Nelson joined the faculty at Western Michigan University as Chair of Civil and Construction Engineering. At Western Michigan he started the civil engineering undergraduate and graduate degree programs and also chaired the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Industrial Design. In summer 2005 he joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Tyler. At UT Tyler he was the founding chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and instituted the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. In 2006 he became the Dean of Engineering and Computer Science. Dr. Nelson returned to Texas A&M University in 2016 as the Director of Special Academic Initiatives for the Texas A&M University System.
Dr. Nelson's primary technical research interest is the behavior of structural systems. For almost 25 years he has been actively involved in evaluating the behavior of free-fall lifeboats and the development of analytical tools to predict that behavior. His research has formed the basis for many of the regulations of the International Maritime Organization for free-fall lifeboat performance. Since 1988, Dr. Nelson has served as a technical advisor to the United States Delegation to the International Maritime Organization, which is a United Nations Treaty Organization. In that capacity, he is a primary author of the international recommendation for testing free-fall lifeboats and many of the international regulations regarding the launch of free-fall lifeboats.
He has authored many technical papers that have been presented in national and international forums and co-authored three textbooks. Dr. Nelson chaired a national committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers for curriculum redesign supporting the civil engineering body of knowledge. He is actively engaged in developing strategies for enhancing the STEM education pipeline in Texas and nationally, and has testified before the Texas Senate and House Higher Education Committees in that regard. He served on a committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop a statewide articulation compact for mechanical engineering and chaired the councils for developing articulation compacts in other engineering and science disciplines. He also served on the Texas State Board of Education committee preparing the standards for career and technical education.

visit author page


Brent L. Donham Texas A&M University-Commerce

visit author page

Dr. Brent Donham is the Dean of the College of Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Throughout his academic career, he has been actively involved in engineering / STEM education. He has led the development and implementation of multiple engineering and engineering technology degrees along with award winning career awareness programs. Dr. Donham holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from New Mexico State University, a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and a doctorate in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce. In addition to his higher education experience, he has more than twelve years of industry experience with Sandia National Laboratories and E Systems (now L3/Harris).

visit author page

Download Paper |


Extended Abstract

Cybersecurity is an emerging field with significant implications as the use of interconnected devices increases. In 2011 the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group [1] reported that sometime between 2008 and 2009 the number of connected devices exceeded the world population. Within major telecommunications companies, the mix of services provided is changing. Data for ATT, as presented by the Wall Street Journal, [2] show a decrease in wireline services and the increase in wireless services. Although wireless services segment grew by six percent, the revenue from wireless services grew by 166 percent. Also of interest in these data is the growth of the “Other” business sector, which includes streaming and online services. That segment nearly tripled in the decade reported. This segment indicates that not only are individuals connecting more devices, they are utilizing more on-line resources.

The internet of things has its complement in the industrial internet of things (IIOT), also characterized as “operational technology” to distinguish it from information technology. The nation’s infrastructure and economy (e.g., transportation, electrical grid, manufacturing) is increasingly dependent on securing the interface between IT and OT within the broader internet of things.

Each of these devices and connections represents a potential entry point for individuals with malicious intentions. As such, many contend that cybersecurity is national security. This validity of this contention has been evident with the recent ransom attacks recently occurring in several Texas jurisdictions. A direct result of the growth of the number of Internet connected devices and the inherent security risks is the need for more individuals trained in the field of cybersecurity and related operational technologies.

[name] is a 2,000-acre [name] System that integrates education, research, and work-force training in a first of its kind model the state of Texas. By assembling a diverse spectrum of engineering and technology tenants into one location, the campus fosters collaboration between enterprises that seek to shape the future through transformation, innovation and education. The educational programs at [name] focus on collaboration between two-year and four-year [name] System institutions providing powerful opportunities for students.

At a recent meeting of the [name] External Academic Advisory Council, cybersecurity was identified as a needed strategic initiative. In response to recommendations made by the External Academic Advisory Council, the [name] Academic Alliance developed the [name] Cybersecurity Alliance to provide for quality control and coordination of program offerings at [name]. The purpose of the [name] Cybersecurity Alliance is to:

1. Provide a venue through which relevant academic and training programs that satisfy industry needs are offered and that enable the students to develop demonstrable hands-on skills; 2. Provide a mechanism by which industry involvement in the offerings can be ensured; and 3. Educate the region about career pathways in cybersecurity, and the vast opportunities within those careers.

Presented in this paper is the development and implementation of the [name] Cybersecurity Alliance and the comprehensive programs that are offered through the Alliance. Included is the new bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity, which was developed from a “clean sheet” with significant industry involvement. Also presented are the initial professional development courses that are being offered. The physical laboratory spaces that have been purpose-built enabling students to obtain hands-on experience as part of the academic and professional development programs are also discussed. A strong component in the development of each of these pieces was the active involvement the public and private sector.

Nelson, J. K., & Donham, B. L. (2020, June), Partnership to Prepare Students for Careers in the Emerging Field of Cybersecurity Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35041

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015