WSU faculty discuss necessity of cybersecurity degree for fall 2023

WSU has created three new classes for degree; Faculty stress student ability to defend against internet crime



As internet crime and demand for cybersecurity increases, WSU faculty believe a new degree will greatly benefit students.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

WSU will offer a new cybersecurity degree across its Pullman, Vancouver and Tri-Cities campuses as early as next year.

Although it is too early to tell, the university predicts student involvement in the degree will initially reach double digits, said Partha Pande, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science director. 

Before implementing the degree, Pande said WSU must wait for approval from the Faculty Senate. 

A degree in cybersecurity is becoming more necessary in modern society because it is vital in people’s daily lives, Pande said. 

“Security is everywhere – network security, software security,” he said. “We live in a connected world and a connected environment. As the world is becoming more and more connected, any outside agent can access our vital systems.”

Demand for cyber-security related jobs is growing. Cybersecurity Ventures predicted there were 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions around the world in 2021, an increase of 1 million since 2014, according to Cybersecurity Magazine

Pande said there will be a wide variety of jobs available to cybersecurity graduates because many careers involve using the internet in some way.

“They will have different types of software, hardware, networking, even power grids. All of these jobs will be at their level.” Pande said.

Cybersecurity has also become more necessary today because of the number of people committing crimes through the internet, said Assefaw Gebremedhin, EECS associate professor.

“There are those who want to hurt us. There are those who want to access data and do money shifting, and to defend against them is one of the reasons why [we will implement this degree program],” Gebremedhim said. “That space is wide open. Every sector needs cybersecurity experts.”

After WSU began to consider the degree last fall, it planned to offer the degree in fall 2023. Faculty are developing the cybersecurity curriculum, which will include topics like network security, hardware security and cyber-physical system security, Pande said. 

He said topics like programming, networking and cyber-physical systems will be key components of course material.

Gebremedhin said Computer Science 327, 427 and 428 have already been created for the cybersecurity degree.

“These are introductions to cybersecurity, applied cybersecurity and advanced cybersecurity,” he said.

Gebremedhin said not all of the courses for the degree are new – some of them are preexisting computer science courses. 

Alongside Pande and Gebremedhin, Haipeng Cai, EECS assistant professor, and Ananth Jillepalli, EECS assistant professor, are also heavily involved in developing the degree, Gebremedhin said. Cai is involved in mobile device security, and Jillepalli is involved in teaching and planning. 

Gebremedhin said WSU will be hiring new faculty for the cybersecurity degree, and he predicts there will be multiple people hired within the first few years of implementing the degree.

“WSU is a system, and there are other system responsibilities,” Pande said. “We need to broaden the student population.”