$30M Gift Boosts Dakota State's Cybersecurity Program

A South Dakota public university that bills itself as a national leader in cybersecurity announced Sunday it has received $30 million in private donations and $30 million in public commitments to help build the cyber program.

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MADISON, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota public university that bills itself as a national leader in cybersecurity announced Sunday it has received $30 million in private donations and $30 million in public commitments to help build the cyber program.

Dakota State University President Jose-Marie Griffiths said the money will allow the Madison college to increase scholarships, hire more faculty and staff, and launch "new, relevant" academic programs.

"This gift will lift Dakota State University to the next level," she said.

The $30 million gift from T. Denny Sanford and Miles and Lisa Beacom was announced during a celebration for the new $11.4 Beacom Institute of Technology. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard added that the state is giving an additional $10 million to the project and he expects the federal government to kick in an additional $20 million.

"Sixty million dollars. Holy cow," Miles Beacom said during the event on the Dakota State campus. "This is truly a historic moment for Dakota State."

Some of the money will be used for new buildings, including one that should be outfitted in technology to allow work to be done on classified information. U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said the new facility should help keep people in the state.

"Young people who earn degrees will be able to work directly on national security and cybersecurity issues without have to leave home," Rounds said.

Richard Hanson, dean of the former College of Computing, which on Sunday was renamed the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences, said before the announcement that the college has acquired the recognition of security agencies in the country as a "quality institution."

Dakota State said it's one of a few schools in the nation with National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security's "Center of Academic Excellence" recognitions in cyberdefense education, research and operations. It's also the only university nationwide that's partnered with the NSA National Cryptologic School, allowing the agency's civilian and military employees to finish degrees in cyber operations.

Hanson said cybersecurity enrollments are increasing rapidly. Students learn sophisticated programming skills, and when they leave, they're skilled at detecting weaknesses in electronic and digital systems and fixing them, Hanson said.

"In our business, we talk about the white hats and the black hats," he said. "There certainly are plenty of black hats, and we try to prepare the white hats."

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