UNT awarded NSA designation, boosting cybersecurity program and job prospects

Friday, March 15, 2024

UNT Computer StudentsDENTON (UNT), Texas — The University of North Texas has resolidified its status as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense for 25 years running.

UNT’s latest U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) recognition, extending through the academic year 2028-29, positions the university among 30 institutions nationwide — and one of only four in Texas — with a 25-year designation. This acknowledgment underscores UNT’s commitment to cybersecurity through academic pursuits, research, institutional practices and community engagement.

The designation reflects efforts by professor Ram Dantu and assistant professor Cihan Tunc in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, along with UNT students.

“There are one million unfilled cybersecurity jobs at all levels — state, federal, small businesses to Fortune 500 companies — the NSA and Homeland Security want to see that students are being prepared to fill those jobs,” said Dantu, director of UNT’s Center for Information and Cyber Security (CICS).

CICS includes faculty members from various departments and welcomes students of all levels, including those from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at UNT, enabling high school aged students to begin their cybersecurity journey early. UNT is one of the few universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a doctorate in cybersecurity.

UNT classes and curriculum align with rigorous standards set by the NSA. Faculty members have ample industry experience and stay up to date with evolving cybersecurity guidelines.

Thomas McCullough, a computer science graduate student at UNT, is a member of CICS. He highlighted the value of having faculty who are actively engaged in the industry.

“It’s great that they can tell us about a real-world experience they learned from. It’s not all theoretical,” McCullough said.

Students like McCullough can demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency in cybersecurity through work on a range of projects spanning from cryptography to malware detection. Additionally, they collaborate across disciplines, contributing to research projects such as enhancing the security of unmanned autonomous vehicles with the Center for Integrated Intelligent Mobility Systems (CIIMS), or consulting on the development of cybercrime curriculum within the Department of Criminal Justice.

With the designation, UNT can issue security certificates approved by the NSA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expanding job opportunities for recent graduates. Completing three additional cybersecurity courses allows students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science to earn this certificate.

The designation coincides with the College of Engineering's 20th anniversary at UNT. Alongside the cyber defense designation, UNT has been acknowledged by the NSA as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Research for 15 years. The designation recognizes UNT’s integration of cybersecurity research into doctoral programs and its support for advanced cybersecurity research and development.

“In today’s fast-changing digital world, with the expanse of the internet and the rise of artificial intelligence security, it’s clear why cybersecurity matters more than ever,” Dantu said. “At UNT, our goal is to pioneer innovative solutions to address these evolving challenges.”


UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

Media Contacts:

Amanda Lyons

From UNT News – Engineering