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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Texas A&M San Antonio Partners With Facebook For Cybersecurity Program

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Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Facebook and Texas A&M University-San Antonio announced a new partnership through a cybersecurity program Wednesday.

Facebook developed an online program with Codepath.com in 2017 that will be taught at the school by Texas A&M faculty.

“It’s the kind of innovative course and innovative thinking that A&M San Antonio is committed to developing,” said Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Texas A&M president.

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Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
TAMU-SA President Cynthia Teniente-Matson stands with Director of Center for Information Technology and Cyber Security Akhtar Lodgher.

TAMU-San Antonio is one of nine universities — and the only one in Texas — to partner with the social media giant.

The company developed the course because of continued shortages in cybersecurity positions nationwide, and the lack of university programs churning out students to address those shortages.

“It was quite alarming — based on the numbers — that by the year 2020 people are saying they are going to need,” said Stephanie Siteman, Facebook cybersecurity programs, and operations manager.

Siteman and Facebook engineers started recruiting universities including Virginia Tech, Davenport, Iowa, based- St. Ambrose, and others in mid-2017. Siteman described slow curriculum adoption processes at many universities that didn’t fit with the company’s timeline.

But TAMU-San Antonio was flexible and moved fast, Siteman said.

“They're really forward thinkers and they're able to move fast and most times we're not able to get the credit for the first semester,” Siteman said. “It’s usually a pilot, but they were able to offer it for credit for their students.”

Siteman said the university's inclusion efforts and diverse student body as additional reasons for the selection. The partnership also includes funding for students to attend professional conferences like Black Hat and Defcon, mentorship from Facebook staff as well as opportunities for high-performing students to gain internships.

"A lot of this stuff you can't teach in academia, right?” said Director of the university's Center for Information Technology and Cyber Security Akhtar Lodgher, who recently returned from taking a group of students to Black Hat. “So they get exposure to this and their eyes are like wide open and they were up all night. This kind of stuff you really can't buy."

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Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Facebook's Stephanie Siteman at Wednesday's Announcement

According to a Lodgher, eight students are currently enrolled in the program for fall 2018, but he expects it to grow in popularity. At other schools, he said, there’s a cap of 30 students, with waitlists of more than 100.

Students receive credit and certificate when they pass with a grade above 80 percent. Facebook staff estimated the course takes 150 hours to complete and is intended to be competitive and self-paced.

“This is a beginning course,” Lodgher said. “Hopefully, Facebook will expand this to other courses may be in the future and maybe we will be a part of that.”

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive