UMSL earns only NSA, DHS focus area specialization within 9-state region

Maurice Dawson receives focus area specialization certificate.

Assistant Professor of Information Systems Maurice Dawson (at center) receives a focus area specialization certificate from Commandant at the National Cryptologic School Leonard Reinsfelder (at left) and Branch Chief of Cybersecurity Education and Awareness for the Department of Homeland Security Daniel Stein. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Dawson)

The National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have designated the University of Missouri–St. Louis with a focus area specialization in Security Policy Development and Compliance through academic year 2021.

UMSL is the only institution within Missouri and all of its eight neighboring states to hold any of the 17 available focus areas. The university is also the only four-year school in Missouri marked as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), a designation also granted by the NSA and DHS.

“This focus area specialization demonstrates the academic rigor of our cybersecurity program,” Assistant Professor of Information Systems Maurice Dawson said. “There are many cyber programs here in the St. Louis metropolitan region, but no one else has received the CAE designation. UMSL has gone a step beyond and achieved a focus area specialization. Within just three years of creating the program, UMSL has established itself as a premier institution for cyber education in the Midwest region.”

Focus area specializations are only available to centers of academic excellence. The process requires an extensive review of curricula including detailed course mapping and mandatory knowledge units.

UMSL’s cybersecurity program is a multidisciplinary effort between the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Information Systems in the College of Business Administration. This collaborative approach allows students to explore the many avenues of information security and adapts to the evolving nature of the field.

Students have a selection of undergraduate and graduate certificates as well as an undergraduate minor in cybersecurity. In fall 2018, UMSL has plans to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in cybersecurity.

In addition to the prestigious NSA/DHS designations, UMSL has made significant strides in advancing the cybersecurity field at large. The program received $493,650 from two NSA grants within the last year. This funding will help develop lab infrastructures, enhance equipment and further advance curricula.

The university also hosted the annual STLCyberCon in November – an event which attracted more than 500 information technology professionals and students. Additionally, the university will sponsor and host the Midwest United States Association for Information Systems 13th Annual Conference in May. This will be the first time the association has hosted a conference in Missouri since its inception in 2006.

For more information about cybersecurity at UMSL, visit

To see a list of all NSA and DHS centers of academic excellence, visit this site.


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