The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 22, 2013

Athens State to add cyber security major

Degree could bolster slight dip in ASU enrollment

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— Cyber security is a pressing concern not only for governmental agencies but also financial institutions, said one of the North Alabama’s top banking leaders during the Oct. 18 board of trustees meeting at Athens State University.

“As a financial institution, cyber attacks and cyber security (are) way up there on the priority list,” said Macke Mauldin, company president of Bank Independent and an ASU board member.

The ASU Board voted 8-0 to approve a cyber security degree in information security and assurance management, or ISAM, through the College of Business.

ISAM coursework will be taught by current ASU faculty and at no additional cost for the degree option, according to school officials.

The degree could be offered by fall 2014, pending approval by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

At the forefront

University President Dr. Bob Glenn said during the board meeting that the Huntsville area is the No. 2 site in the nation for cyber attacks. This trend prompted the FBI in May to announce the transfer of its regional headquarters for national security from Birmingham to Huntsville.

“I suspect every university is going to (offer the ISAM degree),” Glenn said. “We’re just one of the first.”

Athens State had already planned to begin an information security minor in spring 2014, according to the ASU website.

The university is submitting its request to offer an ISAM bachelor’s degree to ACHE, along with updated student survey data.

“It’s going to be complementary to what the university is already doing,” said Dr. Tom Pieplow, interim dean of the College of Business and an associate professor of management.

Boosting enrollment

Board members and Athens State alumni Cathy Dickens, a civilian contractor for the Department of Defense at Redstone Arsenal, and Garth Lovvorn Sr., a regional farmer and retired banker, said the proposed major could trigger enrollment growth.

“This is a huge growth area, (with ASU) being out front and one of the first to offer this,” Dickens said.

Student enrollment declined slightly from fall 2012, with 3,213 students enrolled this fall. Athens State had an approximate 6 percent actual decrease in credit hour production, according to Mike McCoy, vice president for financial affairs at ASU.

“Maybe we weren’t offering what the students wanted,” said Lovvorn, who voiced support for offering the ISAM degree.

The university is also pursuing approval from ACHE and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to offer two graduate degrees in religious studies and logistics.

ASU began offering a master’s degree in business administration in the spring and a master’s in elementary education this fall through a partnership with the University of North Alabama.