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UMGC Global Media Center New UMGC Class Offers Credit for Skills Gained in Cyber Competitions

New Program Encourages Students to Join Cyber Competition Team, Which National Cyber League Ranks Among Top 50 in Country

By Alex Kasten

Adelphi, Md. (January 18, 2023) – University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology will pilot a new class that allows students to gain workforce-relevant skills while earning credit for competing in cybersecurity competitions.

Beginning in the spring 2023 semester, students will be able to earn three credits through the program by joining individual and team competitions, attending weekly meetings, and working on cybersecurity skills they would like to improve to increase their marketability to employers.

“In this class, students will get credit for the workplace skills they gain during competitions,” said Dr. Helen Barker, department chair of the cybersecurity program at UMGC. “We are starting the class with current UMGC cyber competition team members but eventually plan to allow anyone to be part of a class that would give students an opportunity to be part of the team.”

Jesse Varsalone, collegiate associate professor of cybersecurity technology at UMGC, said the competitions contains real-world tasks that professionals perform every day. “The pilot program will encourage students to join the team and further prepare to meet the demands of the workforce,” said Varsalone, who coaches the cyber competition team

The UMGC cyber competition team has built a trajectory of success, concluding the National Cyber League (NCL) competition season for fall 2022 ranked No. 47 among more than 470 colleges and universities nationally.

The NCL is a nationally recognized organization dedicated to preparing high school and college students for careers in cybersecurity through a safe online platform of real-world cybersecurity competitions.

“It is with our highest recommendation that students from University of Maryland Global Campus be recognized for their admirable achievement that showcased individual skills, collaborative performance, and desire to grow and learn as cybersecurity professionals,” said Dr. David Zeichick, commissioner of the NCL.UMGC cybersecurity competition teams racked up several top finishes in 2022, most notably first, second, and third place finishes in the Annual Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC) Competition on Oct. 22. Other top finishes included third place in the NCAE Cyber Games Northeast Regional, third place in the Hacktheport Competition, and a recent second place finish in a capture the flag (CTF) competition sponsored by Parsons Corp.

About the UMGC Cybersecurity Competition Team

The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) cybersecurity competition team, established in 2012, is composed of students, alumni, and faculty who compete regularly in digital forensics, penetration testing, and computer network defense scenarios that help them gain experience to advance their cybersecurity skills and careers. The UMGC Multi-Dimensional Applied Relevant System (MARS) virtual lab environment, an NSA Center of Academic Excellence partnership, and other resources help students prepare for competitions.

The team, ranked among the top 50 in the National Cyber League in 2022, has claimed numerous honors, including championships in local, national, and international competitions. In addition to several top-three finishes in the Maryland Cyber Challenge, UMGC won the gold medal in the 2014 Global CyberLympics and took first place in 2015 at the inaugural DiploHack competition sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. UMGC also won a Silver Award in the 2016 National Cyber Analyst Challenge and finished third in the 2022 Maritime and Control Systems Cybersecurity Con Hack the Port competition.