Tarrant County College District Designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

Recently, TCC was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) for the validated program(s) of study through the 2028 academic year.

According to Shahla Durany, instructor/C=coordinator for the Office Technology Professional Program with TCC Connect, “(The Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) is awarded to academic institutions that offer Cybersecurity degrees and/or certificates. National Security Agency (NSA) launched this designation for two-year colleges in 2019.

“Tarrant County College is honored to be designated as the National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity. The designation process involves multiple applications, including Program of Study validation,” she said. “Institutions that receive this designation have met very rigorous requirements established by the NSA. This designation will showcase the quality of the Cybersecurity program that we teach at the College and reinforce our commitment to providing quality education in this field).”

In her letter to Durany, who led TCC’s efforts in pursuing the CAE-CD designation, National CAE Program Manager Renae Weathers said TCC’s ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the National Information Infrastructure. Weathers also said education is the key to promoting the ideals of a highly skilled cybersecurity workforce as a strategic national security advantage and building the domestic talent pipeline.

Vice President for Academic Affairs at TCC Southeast, Zena Jackson, agreed, saying, “TCC’s CAE-CD designation speaks to the quality of curriculum, instruction and business partnerships that support our students’ academic and industry success. We are very excited to bring this important designation to our students and proud of the role our faculty and our college leaders played in validating the exceptional growth and success of Cybersecurity at Tarrant County College.”

“We are honored to be acknowledged for our commitment to academic excellence and look forward to continuing our journey of fostering innovation and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow,” said TCC Northwest President Zarina Blankenbaker. “This recognition affirms our commitment to providing students with an exceptional learning experience and highlights the collective efforts of our faculty, staff, and students. We understand that a highly skilled cybersecurity workforce is not only a strategic advantage but also a cornerstone of our national defense. We are fully committed to continuing our efforts in educating and empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect our digital assets.”

TCC South Computer Science/IT Professor Angela Shearry-Sneed hailed the designation as a significant accomplishment and “a testament to the quality of our cybersecurity education and training programs.” She added, “The cybersecurity field is paramount in today’s digitized world, given that cyber threats and attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and pervasive. Institutions like TCC play a pivotal role in preparing future cybersecurity professionals to protect our digital infrastructure and national security. Being a CAE-CD not only facilitates access to various grants and funding to further advance cybersecurity education and research but also makes our graduates more attractive to employers in the cybersecurity domain.”

Richard Sellers, who teaches Computer Science at TCC Southeast says there are a number of reasons gaining the CAE-CD designation while working on their associate degree in Cybersecurity benefits students:

  • Quality Assurance – confirmation of the high standard of education
  • Relevance to Industry – alignment with industry standards and best practices
  • Strong Faculty Expertise – teaching by cybersecurity experts who provide valuable insights and mentorship
  • Career Opportunities – designation makes graduates more attractive to employers
  • Research Opportunities – cutting-edge research in the field
  • Cybersecurity Awareness – awareness of the importance of cybersecurity education and training, leading to more students entering the field and meeting the demand for cybersecurity professionals

Additionally, Sellers believes the designation is essential because “it signifies that an institution is committed to providing high-quality, up-to-date, and industry-relevant cybersecurity education. This can enhance students’ learning experiences, job prospects, and overall preparedness for careers in the field of cybersecurity.”