The Critical Infrastructure Higher Education Initiative – Dynamic Resources for a Dynamic Field

Posted: January 20, 2016 at 11:10 am

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Christie Jones, Education Program Manager
Center for Infrastructure Protection & Homeland Security, George Mason University

The Critical Infrastructure Higher Education Initiative (CI HEI), a partnership between the George Mason University Center for Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security (CIP/HS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Infrastructure Protection, continues to be on the forefront of cutting-edge critical infrastructure security and resilience higher education as it enters into its fifth year.  CI HEI works to develop dynamic educational resources to support development of a comprehensive higher education system aimed at producing and sustaining the leaders and workforce required to ensure the security and resilience of the Nation’s critical infrastructure. These materials, that include course syllabi, case studies, classroom exercises, and technical assistance resources, are publicly available to colleges and universities throughout the nation and the world.

The interest and need for critical infrastructure security and resilience higher education is increasing, and educators are requesting innovative ways to institute resilience and security principles into their programs.  In response to this need, CI HEI has developed modules of the “foundations” course—Foundations of Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience. Divided into thirteen individualized, self-contained lessons, the course can now be integrated at both undergraduate and graduate levels on an “as needed” basis. Each module provides lesson objectives, reading resources, and classroom activities that can be easily adjusted by an instructor depending on the need. For example, an information assurance professor who wants to discuss cyber threats to critical infrastructure can use all or part of Lesson 8—Insider Threats and Cybersecurity and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Vulnerabilitiesto teach the topic. A professor in an undergraduate business school may use Lesson 5—Organizing and Partnering to Share Information—to illustrate the need for information sharing within the private sector, a critical core competency.

While many educators want to add security and resilience concepts and competencies in their curriculum and classrooms, they struggled with how to teach these concepts for the first time. CI HEI worked to address this obstacle through the creation of the Foundations of Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience “course-in-a-box.” The “course-in-a-box” is highly flexible while providing additional tools and resources to instructors, educators, and faculty who themselves may be new to critical infrastructure security and resilience concepts and materials, or are practitioners in the field entering the academic environment.  Each lesson within the “course-in-a-box” includes additional background reading for the instructors; lessons notes on how the materials can be presented; PowerPoint slides for use by the instructors; classroom exercises and instructions on how to run the exercises; as well as resources to locate guest speakers and other expertise to support the instructor.  The “course-in-a-box” will allow an educator new to the field to expertly teach a foundational course in critical infrastructure security and resilience.

Practitioners and academics in the security and resilience field are consistently challenged to find relevant resources to support their knowledge.  CI HEI offers a variety of tools and resources to address this need. These include supplemental case studies and classroom exercises designed to engage students, integrate learning, and provide a “real life” component to any security and resilience focused curriculum. CI HEI maintains a robust Speakers’ Bureau whose respected subject matter experts can provide insights and innovative ideas to student groups and classrooms across the country. CI HEI also offers an expansive reading list of critical infrastructure security and resilience related articles, books, scholarly publications, presentations, and table top exercises.

CI HEI dynamic educational resources are used at the community college, undergraduate, and graduate levels in a variety of academic disciplines at institutions across the country. The Critical Infrastructure Track of George Mason University’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program is an excellent example of CI HEI’s materials in action. Based on the CI HEI five-course certificate program, the EMBA addresses the critical areas of risk analysis and management, systems analysis, and cyber security within critical infrastructure sectors. The program emphasizes interagency action and industry-government coordination to achieve business efficiency and resilience.

In 2016, CI HEI is continuing efforts to bring dynamic educational resources to field of critical infrastructure security and resilience. The focus remains on responding to the needs of the academic community through further development of modules and “course-in-a-box” products to support easy implementation and adaptation of the prototype curricula into a broader range of academic disciplines.  This year the team will modularize the Cyber Dimension of Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience prototype course. In addition, CI HEI staff will actively participate in a number of conferences and engagements to increase awareness of the materials available to the field. Along with outreach, CI HEI will enhance its ongoing relationships with academic institutions and organizations across the country that are already using the materials or have expressed an interest in doing so through targeted technical assistance.

To date, CI HEI has created a total of twenty-six interdisciplinary critical infrastructure security and resilience (CISR) prototype course syllabi—thirteen stand-alone courses, a five-course certificate program, and an eight-course Master’s degree concentration.  These prototype course syllabi have been developed collaboratively with top subject matter experts in the field; are continuously updated to ensure they remain relevant; and address cutting-edge topics such as business continuity, risk, interdependencies, and cybersecurity. All of the CI HEI course syllabi can be easily tailored by academic departments, faculty, and course instructors in a variety of disciplines, including homeland security, emergency management, business, public health, engineering, and information assurance.

The stand-alone curricula are designed to be inserted into an existing graduate program as individual courses. Each syllabus can be customized to the needs for the particular program or department.  The certificate program is a complete model for the creation of a graduate or professional certificate program; these courses can also be adapted for use in other professional degree programs.  The Master’s degree concentration in Public Administration comprises a full eight-course model degree program that can be supplemented by existing electives offered at the academic institution.

CI HEI remains the vanguard in the creation and offering of innovative, comprehensive, and adaptable educational resources and technical assistance to the critical infrastructure security and resilience community. By responding to the needs of this dynamic education field, CI HEI remains the leader in supporting both academics and practitioners through their cutting-edge materials.  If you have any questions regarding CI HEI, would like to provide feedback, or join our growing list of subject-matter experts, please contact Christie Jones, CIP/HS Education Program Manager, at cjones62@gmu.edu or 703-993-4792.

Write to the Editors at ciprpt@gmu.edu