CCICADA’s Partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions

Help Prepare Minority Students for Homeland Security Careers


Serving minority students is a very important part of CCICADA’s homeland-security education programs. (Photo credit: CCICADA)

Working closely with the DHS Office of University Programs, CCICADA aims to enhance the homeland security workforce of the future by reaching out to underserved minorities who might not otherwise be aware of—or prepared for—a career in homeland security. In the process, the center seeks to prepare a broad group of minority students to enter science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

CCICADA’s Minority Service Institution (MSI) Partners — CCICADA works closely with numerous minority serving institutions (MSIs). At its latest center-wide retreat in March 2015, one third of the 51 participants were from MSIs, and they had a prominent role in the program.

Five minority serving institutions are full partners with CCICADA. They include City College of New York, Howard University, Morgan State University, Texas Southern University, and Tuskegee University. These partners and other MSIs are engaged in CCICADA’s research projects and educational programs. They nominate students for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, encourage students to participate in contests, send faculty to the yearly Reconnect program, send faculty and students to workshops, are summer residents working with CCICADA faculty, participate in tutorials, and experiment with CCICADA modules in their classrooms.

In addition, CCICADA provides guidance and mentoring annually for well over 25 MSI teams seeking US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding through the Department’s MSI Scientific Leadership Program and the DHS Summer Visitor Team Research Program.

MSI Summer Research Teams—Many MSI teams of faculty and students have spent summers at CCICADA doing research projects under CCICADA mentoring. Among the schools that have participated in this program recently are Norfolk State, City University of New York (CCNY), and Alabama A&M. The 2014 MSI Summer Visitor Research Team consisted of CCNY Professor Rosario Gennaro and his two students, Whitney Drazen and Emmanuel Ekwedike. Rutgers Computer Science Professors Rebecca Wright and David Cash mentored the team on a project entitled: “Verifiable Search over Encrypted Data.” Their project explored questions that lie at the heart of cloud computing—how can a third party compute for us without learning our private data, and how can we efficiently verify the result of such computation?

Ekwedike said of his experience, “This research has equipped me with numerous skills in cryptographic research. I gained insight on how to analyze the computational complexity of an algorithm. I learned the basic foundation necessary to construct efficient algorithms….The interdisciplinary nature of the program was outstanding. More importantly the peer-to-peer collaboration was essential in the research process.”

DHS MSI Scientific Leadership Program (SLP) Awards—The two most recent SLP awards were made to Tennessee State University and the University of Texas San Antonio for their work with CCICADA. Dr. Martene Stanberry of UTSA and Dr. Sachin Shetty of Tennessee State will develop data-analytics approaches to detecting anomalies in critical infrastructure. Each SLP award recipient develops an Education Plan. Tennessee State’s plan will enhance the existing undergraduate minority serving and Electrical and Computer Engineering programs through improved curriculum, student recruitment, student retention, outreach, and collaborative relationships with industry, federal laboratories and academia. The curriculum enhancement will include vertically-integrated, multi-year materials allowing course content in separate classes to be naturally interconnected via laboratory exercises associated with the DHS-STEM theme: communications and Interoperability.

Dr. Bernard Arulandanam at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is leading an SLP team that is tackling the problems of analysis and training for defense against biological and digital threats. Their work involves exploration of the analogies and differences between computer and biological viruses and immune systems. Under their education plan, they are attracting, recruiting, and educating high-performing undergraduate students as DHS scholars interested in genomic epidemiology, bio-surveillance, cyber security, and digital forensics. They are also providing formal paid internships with key organizations involved in biological and cyber-security defense. They will involve undergraduate “DHS Scholars” at UTSA in research projects, via a formal course research project, as well as out-of-class research endeavors. Both the UTSA and Tennessee State teams are already becoming heavily integrated in the life of CCICADA. Six representatives of these schools participated in CCICADA‘s March 2015 retreat.

MSI Partner Accomplishments —CCICADA’s MSI partners run many exciting programs supported by the center. For example, Tuskegee University invited 12 non-computer-science faculty members to the Computer Science department at Tuskegee for a two-week workshop in June 2013 on Information Assurance. The goal was to give them enough training to work information-assurance concepts into their teaching specialties. In collaboration with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, faculty at Howard University and Morgan State University are leading CCICADA’s work on bio-surveillance. They are also researching the factors that could lead to the return of endemic malaria to the US, something that concerns the CDC very much.

Students — CCICADA’s summer REU programs benefit many students from MSI institutions. An REU student from Jackson State University stayed at Rutgers University to take a CCICADA internship so she could meet her DHS career-development, fellowship-service obligation. Another student from Albany State College (Georgia) went on to obtain her Ph.D at Tuskegee and now works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. CCICADA students from MSI partners move to outstanding PhD programs at universities like Princeton, North Carolina State and Johns Hopkins.

National Association of Mathematicians (NAM-Math) — CCICADA also supports the annual meeting of organizations such as NAM, which aim to involve minority students in STEM disciplines. We have supported NAM meetings with speakers at MSIs such as Miami Dade College, Dillard College, and University of the District of Columbia.

Faculty Positions at MSIs — CCICADA graduate students from our MSI partners go on to faculty positions at other MSIs. For example, Howard graduate Bassidy Dembele is now on the faculty at Grambling State, and Howard graduate Shari Wiley is now on the faculty at Hampton University.

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