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Columbus State unveils new TSYS Center for Cybersecurity, cyber programs

November 4, 2021

CSU administrators and Global Payments CEO Jeff Sloan cut the ribbon on the TSYS Cybersecurity Center

Columbus State University unveiled on Thursday, Nov. 4, its new TSYS Center for Cybersecurity, a state-of-the-art facility designed to enrich students’ academic experiences, broaden industry partnerships and meet workforce demands for high-tech cyber warriors. The range is the first-of-its kind in Georgia — designed for and available to train both industry professionals and college students.

CSU’s TSYS Center for Cybersecurity is a $2.5 million project and part of the $5 million gift CSU received from TSYS during the university’s First Choice fundraising campaign. TSYS, a Global Payments company, sees its investment in CSU as a broader investment in strengthening global networks and the workforce that builds, maintains and defends them.

“Ask any CEO what keeps him or her up at night, and I’d bet cybersecurity would be near the top of every list,” said Jeff Sloan, CEO of Global Payments. “The digital economy can only progress as fast as security can keep up, which means that this cyber range can be a real catalyst for innovation and continued economic growth.”

The center was created to address the shortage of cybersecurity professionals — particularly for the financial services industry — in today’s workforce. CyberSeek, a program of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, projects that there are over 17,000 cybersecurity jobs unfilled in Georgia, as well as more than 464,000 nationally.

Now, a full complement of nexus, bachelor’s, master’s and graduate certificate programs are available for study at Columbus State University. Traditional students, those seeking to move up in their current careers and others looking to move into the technology sector for the first time have flexible options to choose from that allow them to enter the industry sooner and better prepared.

“We’re building tomorrow’s creative workforce — the state’s, region’s and nation’s creative workforce — today through programs like cybersecurity,” CSU president Chris Markwood said. “In doing so, we are helping to change the landscape of our community and fuel the thriving economy of Columbus and beyond.”

Michael Barker, the center’s director, noted that CSU’s various cyber-focused academic programs have thrived, even during the recent era of COVID-19.

“While COVID-19 shut down the world, Columbus State was opening a whole new world of opportunities for our students and bearing fruit from TSYS’ generous donation,” Barker said. “Since launching our cybersecurity nexus program last August, we’ve onboarded three cohorts of students. Since then, many of our first and second cohorts students have received apprenticeship, internship and co-op offers with companies here in Columbus — the majority being with TSYS.”

TSYS has employed more than 1,000 CSU alumni during the company’s existence. Global Payments, of which TSYS is a part, is a Fortune 500 company with 24,000 team members worldwide.

“TSYS and Columbus State University have a long history of working together to prepare students for jobs that are in high demand,” Sloan said. “Like so many initiatives we’ve undertaken with Columbus State in the past, this cyber range is a win-win for Columbus, TSYS and Global Payments.”

That “win-win” is applauded by CSU students, who welcome the cyber-center’s combined focus of hands-on cyber range experiences and networking with industry experts and professionals. Current CSU undergraduate Alex Watson sees that as setting him apart from students at other institutions.

“Columbus State offers avenues for people from any background to get the required skills they need to break into this field,” said Watson, a graduate of CSU’s cybersecurity nexus program who is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. “Cyber programs here at CSU offer us world-class facilities, faculty with a rich knowledge base and a curriculum that focuses on developing our soft skills as well as exposing us to amazing industry partners.”

Jason Parker, a student who enrolled in CSU’s cybersecurity nexus program after retiring from the U.S. Army, agreed.

“The idea of a yearlong program that combined professionalism, certifications and on-the-job experience caught my attention, and I’ve never looked back since,” Parker said. “The opportunity to learn in a cyber range of this caliber at Columbus State is an experience that not very many people get to have — and our class will be better prepared because of it.”

Access to Columbus State’s cyber range is not limited to its students. CSU’s TSYS Center for Cybersecurity’s cyber range is a “live-fire” range — meaning the center doubles as a training facility for industry professionals to practice live-fire exercises that address over 50,000 versions of malware on an exact replica of a company’s network. CSU’s range, purchased from Cyberbit, is the same range once used to train the Israeli Defense Force to protect the nation of Israel against cyber-attacks. The range is capable of simulating cyber incursions ranging from a simple web defacement to a full-blown ransomware attack.

For more information, visit https://turner.columbusstate.edu/cybersecurity-center.

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