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CityU School of Management Curricula Secures National Recognition and CNSS Certification

A Conversation with School of Management Program Director Dr. Erik Fretheim

Erik-Fretheim_Dec-2014Today, City University of Seattle became one of four schools in the state of Washington to offer curricula that has been certified by The Information Assurance Courseware Evaluation (IACE) Program of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS).

This certification will allow CityU of Seattle to award students completing a Master of Science in Information Security, and a specialty within the Bachelor of Science in Computer Systems, with a  CNSS certification.

The IACE Program thoroughly assesses commercial, government and academic sources against national standards set by the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS). IACE standards provide consistency in training and education across institutions. Their assessment and review assures critical skills and information is being taught to students, so national security is upheld. This certification demonstrates that the coursework being taught at CityU maps directly to CNSS National Standards.

To find out more about some of our tech-driven degree programs and how the CNSS certification will affect students’ day-to-day lives, we asked Dr. Erik Fretheim, School of Management Faculty member and Program Director, a few questions.

Here what he had to say about these programs and this new certification:

CityU: Before jumping into the certification and how this will affect students, let’s begin with the two degree programs that are affected by the CNSS certification – the  Master of Science in Information Security and the Bachelor of Science in Computer Systems. What are the top three to four things you hope a student walks away with when graduating with a MSIS degree? What are those top three to four things for the BSCS degree?

Dr. Erik Fretheim (EF): Our MS Information Security program is one of the more technical degrees in the area.  While others focus on managing Information Security, our program not only provides skills to manage Information Security, as evidenced by our certification, but also teaches students how to perform technical analysis and reverse engineer security threats. Our students don’t just understand the threats to information security; they understand how they work and how to prevent future threats.

Our BS Computer Systems with emphasis in Information Security students receive a broad education in implementing, operating and managing computer systems.  On top of this, they study in depth how to implement information security to protect those systems.  This is important in supporting critical computer systems, such as those found in the healthcare and finance industries.

CityU: What kind of career does one go into when graduating with a MSIS? When graduating with a BSCS? And, how will the CNSS certification assist students in getting into those careers?

EF: Students in the MSIS program can expect to find themselves as an Information Security analyst or manager working for a company with mission critical systems.   Students may find themselves working for companies, such as Boeing, Microsoft or Amazon, or they may choose a career in public service working for the NSA, the National Health Institutes, the military or other government agencies. Practically all large businesses and organizations have a need for Information Security.

Our students in the BSCS program may find them working in practically any area of the computer systems field, as a technician, a systems administrator, or an information security specialist.  While their job may not specifically be an information security position, it is important for every position in computer systems.

For both programs, a certification backed by CNSS shows the employer that the student has been successful in an educational program in information security and is up to date on the latest standards and requirements. These certifications will give students an edge in getting hired.

CityU: As the program director, how do you keep these two programs current or up-to-date with the demands of varying industries (tech, healthcare, security, etc.)?

EF: It’s impossible for an individual to keep up with everything in the broad field of technology no matter how hard you try. Fortunately, we have a really highly qualified faculty composed of practitioners in the field.  What they are teaching in class in the evening is what they were doing at work during the day. We also rely on them to keep us up to date with what is happening in their fields. In information security, we are particularly lucky as some of our instructors work for the NSA and other agencies on the leading edge of security. We have other instructors with key security jobs in industry, so we get both perspectives.

In addition to our instructors, we make use of panels of advisers from industry, such as our Health Information Technology advisory group.

CityU: What did your department have to do to secure a CNSS certification? How long did it take?

EF: CNSS certification is not something that can be obtained without having had students go through the program, so that in itself takes time. Beyond that, we were required to do an assessment of our program and map where in the program each element of the requirements is taught. Once that was completed, we submitted it to IACE program which verified our mapping and determined whether our coverage was sufficient.  That process took about 2 months.

CityU: How will this certification help students?

EF: We issue a certificate to students based on our certification. This shows the company that the student has been trained to the standard.  It provides evidence to the employer that the student has completed a certified program recognized by industry and the government.

CityU: Who do you think would be the “perfect” candidate to apply for an MSIS degree? Who do you think should apply for the BSCS degree? Why?

EF: A perfect candidate for the MSIS program would be someone who has been working in a technical field for a while and wants to become a special in Information Security.

The perfect candidate for our BSCS program is anyone who is interested in technology and computers and would like to work in the area.  The candidate may be interested in our emphasis in Information Security, or may be interested in our other options in Networking, or Health Information Technology.

CityU: Any last comments about this certification, these two programs or what’s next for the School of Management?

EF: I was having dinner with an old Army buddy last night. When he heard I am working at City University of Seattle he shared with me that he received his MBA from CityU in 1986 and that it had a substantial impact on his life and business. That is the kind of impact that we are trying to make with our technology programs as well.  In addition to making this impact, we also just completed a major revision of our Master of Science in Computer Systems program which will launch this fall.  We’re very excited about the new program which we feel will give technology professionals a real boost in their careers.

Erik has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He has worked in the technology industry for 30 years including implementing information security at MCI, Siemens and as an officer in the US Army (101st Military Intelligence Battalion, Civilian Police Assistant Training Team – Baghdad, Iraq, etc), and taught at the United States Military Academy.

You can contact Erik for more information here. If you would just like to find out information about CityU, please contact our admissions team at info@cityu.edu or 1-800-426-5596.

Thank you Erik for talking with us! The official certificate will be awarded to CityU at the 16th annual Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education (CISSE). More information on the IACE can be found here.

Published March 6, 2012