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NSA and UTSA: Partnering to Meet Cybersecurity Challenges

By Betsy Stein NSA/CSS Communications Officer

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The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has partnered with NSA for more than 16 years to create the talent and tools needed to address the nation’s toughest cybersecurity challenges.

“UTSA is unique in that it is only one of 10 colleges and universities that holds the distinction of being designated as a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in all of three NSA focus areas – Cyber Operations, Cyber Defense and Research,” said George C. Barnes, Deputy Director of NSA. CAE’s promote higher education and research in cybersecurity and produce professionals with the expertise to reduce vulnerabilities in our national information infrastructure.

To celebrate the partnership, NSA has named UTSA a featured school and will be highlighting the collaboration on NSA.gov, Intelligence Careers.gov and on social media.

“We are thrilled to be named a Featured School,” said Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA Interim Vice President for Research, Economic Development and Knowledge Enterprise. “By bringing NSA researchers and scholars to work on campus, our students have benefited in so many ways. With over a dozen research projects to choose from, students are learning new ways in which to think, design and create to tackle real world challenges, in particular as related to cyber and national security.”

NSA has established a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) with the University of Texas (UT) system, which enables easy collaboration between NSA and any of the 14 schools in the UT system. Currently, UTSA is working on a number of projects or “joint work statements” with NSA under the CRADA, addressing challenges in areas such as augmented reality and high-speed computing.

As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, UTSA also contributes to the diversity of NSA. The university is one of 16 hiring and recruitment Campus Ambassador Program (CAP) schools across the country, and UTSA alumni working at NSA have degrees in computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics, information technology and more.

Andrew Hutton, a software engineer at NSA, started working at the Agency as an intern while at UTSA – a school he said he chose for its cybersecurity program.

“I showed up and was working on code and pushing stuff to production right away,” he said of his internship. “One of the things that attracted me to the Agency is that the work we do here really matters.”

NSA also has a specialized articulation agreement with UTSA that allows military and NSA civilian employees unique pathways to obtain college degrees to further their careers and contributions to the mission.

“As the Agency works to enhance our partnerships with academic institutions, such as UTSA -- by appointing visiting professors, engaging academic liaisons, establishing articulation agreements, and implementing CRADAs -- we create amazing, unique opportunities for students to contribute to the field of cybersecurity and ultimately to our mission,” said Kathy Hutson, senior strategist for Academic Engagement. “That’s truly a win-win.”

NSA aims to introduce a new featured school every few months, highlighting schools designated as CAE’s that have a depth and breadth of engagement with NSA. So far, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University have been featured.

To learn more about UTSA and its programs visit the UTSA website.