New cyber ed center at MSU kicks off with C Spire partnership, advisory board meeting

October 18, 2018
Contact: Carl Smith

MSU President Mark E. Keenum spoke during an Oct. 17 news conference to announce the launch of the Software Development Pathway public-private partnership.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum spoke during an Oct. 17 news conference to announce the launch of the Software Development Pathway public-private partnership. (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

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Mississippi State’s newest university-level center has launched its first official project to further enhance cyber education for the state’s K-12 schools.

The Center for Cyber Education’s advisory board held its first meeting on Wednesday afternoon [Oct. 17] a few hours after C Spire announced a $550,000 gift to MSU to support the center’s first official project.

The center will build upon the MSU Research and Curriculum Unit’s longstanding work in K-12 computer science education, teacher training and teacher recruitment. Its first project is the C Spire Software Development Pathway.

Under the three-year pilot program, C Spire and state education officials are estimating the new program can deliver 93 percent more Mississippi graduates qualified for entry-level software development jobs than existing programs, which should help close the skills gap for this profession in Mississippi.

“I’m thrilled about the partnership that Mississippi State University is joining today [Oct. 17] with our friends at C Spire,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “The C Spire Software Development Pathway creates boundless opportunities for the state’s future and relies on the expertise of the MSU Research and Curriculum Unit’s Center for Cyber Education in an exciting new collaboration between educators and those on the cutting edge of world-class technologies.”

The program, which will be fully funded in the first year and partially funded in the second and third years by C Spire, will train 30 teachers and give computer science job opportunities for 150 students from selected schools after two years of specialized course work in high school and one year in community college.

“The RCU has an excellent track record of delivering innovative solutions that make a real difference in Mississippi’s schools,” said David Shaw, the university’s vice president for research and economic development. “Mississippi State is also a national leader in high performance computing and cybersecurity, and we believe our multi-disciplinary expertise will enhance the Center for Cyber Education’s long-term impact as technology continues to advance.”

Shaw noted that the center’s advisory board includes faculty representatives from each one of the university’s colleges.

“We are glad to support the Center for Cyber Education and its work in computer science,” said Betsey Smith, director of the RCU. “The growing need for computer science instruction across all grades and districts in the state has been and will stay connected to the RCU’s core work in career and technical education.”

In addition to C Spire’s support, grants from the Mississippi Department of Education and National Science Foundation, as well as a partnership with Code.org, have laid the foundation for the center, which has begun developing new funding streams for staff to be dedicated fully to addressing computer science needs in the state.

“Mississippi has an aggressive goal of creating a computer science curriculum framework in all grades, K-12, and placing qualified computer science teachers in all Mississippi schools by 2023-2024,” said Shelly Hollis, who will lead the center’s work. “The Center for Cyber Education will further this goal by developing and delivering focused computer science training for K-12 teachers and working with the College of Education, MDE and other partners to create pathways for licensure and endorsements.”

For more information about the Center for Cyber Education, contact Hollis at shelly.hollis@rcu.msstate.edu.

Founded in 1965, the RCU contributes to MSU’s mission as a land-grant institution to better the lives of Mississippians with a focus on improving education. In particular, the RCU benefits K-12 and higher education by developing curricula and assessments, providing training and learning opportunities for educators, researching and evaluating programs, supporting and promoting career and technical education, and leading education innovations. For more information about RCU, rcu.msstate.edu or follow the organization on Facebook at facebook.com/rcumsu or on Twitter at twitter.com/rcumsu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at msstate.edu.