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Former Deputy of Homeland Security shares how students can make their mark on the rapidly expanding field of cybersecurity

Liberty University’s School of Business is known for bringing in high government and business authorities to speak with students, answer industry questions, and give advice. On Wednesday, the school welcomed Dr. Ken Cuccinelli, former deputy of homeland security under the Trump administration, who spoke about his tenure as deputy, about the cyber threats in America, and how Liberty students can get involved in one of the fastest growing industries nationwide.

The event turnout was an indication of the popularity of the field, as it was originally scheduled to be held in the Center for Cyber Excellence but had to be moved to the Center for Entrepreneurship for more space.

Cuccinelli started his presentation by defining the Department of Homeland Security, how it has adapted since its inception in 2001, and how the department differentiates from the other government entities.

Throughout his lecture, Cuccinelli focused on the importance of cyber professionals working in the government, outlining the sprouting nature of the profession.

“The cybersecurity field is highly complicated, very quick-changing, and it’s evolving very rapidly,” Cuccinelli said. “Anyone getting into this field is committing to perpetual learning.”

Cybersecurity is big, dynamic, and growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the industry will experience a job growth of over 30% before 2030. With this information, the School of Business is ready to fully equip the next generation of cyber professionals with the skills to lead on the frontlines. The Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency have designated Liberty University a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. The school’s Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC) has competed and performed well at regional and national competitions.

The School of Business offers cybersecurity degree programs in information systems, information technology, and computer science.

Cuccinelli said that every government and business worker must have some level of cybersecurity literacy, from CEO level on down.

“A CEO who knows nothing about cyber security still needs to be able to implement cyber security strategies,” Cuccinelli said. “He or she doesn’t need to know how to code, but they do need to manage and absorb the information in ways that allow them to make decisions.”

Given the industry’s impact across multiple disciplines, Cuccinelli said he was encouraged that a Christian institution like Liberty was embracing the cybersecurity field and providing students with everything necessary to jumpstart their careers. He also said he was encouraged that students from across the business, computer science, and government spectrums attended and engaged with his presentation.

“I got a lot of good questions, including a lot of nuanced items like ‘Where’s the line between individual security and national security?’ which is a very complicated question in this age,” he said. “It’s a lot more difficult than when the founders first thought of it. … Especially when I get questions as good as these were, it gives me some optimism for the future.”

“Liberty University is a real blessing to Virginia, but it’s also a blessing to the whole country,” he added. “I’m glad to see a room full of interested, attentive folks.”

Prior to his role as deputy of homeland security, Cuccinelli served as Virginia’s 46th Attorney General from 2010-2014 and was a member of Virginia’s Senate from the 37th district from 2002-2010.

“Part of what we’re trying to do by having guest speakers like Dr. Cuccinelli is to really integrate the School of Business, the Helms School of Government, and some other areas, to produce technical students across the university who can interoperate together,” said Dr. Michael Lehrfeld, the new executive director for the Center for Cyber Excellence. “We want all these students from different areas to be on the same page. They are all experts in their own areas, but they still understand the need for the others.”

“The world of cybersecurity isn’t some little area of interest,” said Dave Brat, dean of the School of Business. “It is the world our students will live in for decades to come.”