UAH leads new program to develop cyber workforce from underserved academia

James B. Johnson, deputy to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, signs the SMDC Underserved Community Cybersecurity and Engineering Education Development (SUCCEED) charter as members of the SUCCEED board and others look on.

Michael Mercier / UAH

A new program conceived and led by the Center for Cybersecurity Research and Education at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) is aimed at developing a robust cybersecurity workforce from students in underserved areas of academia.

The charter for the SMDC Underserved Community Cybersecurity and Engineering Education Development (SUCCEED) program was signed on Redstone Arsenal on Tuesday, Oct. 20. It serves as the cornerstone to solidify the SUCCEED board representative organization's commitment to creating opportunities for students to learn, gain experience and network within the Department of Defense community.

"SUCCEED will help SMDC achieve its goals to develop a robust and qualified pipeline of technical students into industry, while simultaneously reaching into diverse and underserved areas of academia within Alabama to accomplish these goals," says Katrina Bristol, a CCRE research engineer.

"SUCCEED will enact partnerships that will leverage the talent of students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and underserved high school communities throughout the state, to equip and prepare minorities to compete and succeed in STEM careers with the federal government in general and at SMDC, in particular."

As the program lead, CCRE administers an almost $1 million SMDC contract for fiscal 2021 that includes work by other members of the SUCCEED board. Members of the SUCCEED board include UAH/CCRE, Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University, Alabama State University, the Alabama School for Cyber Technology and Engineering, Black Data Processing Associates – Huntsville Chapter, the LeBlanc Foundation and SMDC. UAH and CCRE are represented on the board by Oscar McCants.

"The contract will provide for the time of the non-SMDC board members as well as nominations of, and employment of, students from the organizations and institutions represented by the board," says Bristol.

The contract also funds UAH students who are doing ongoing small satellite research, quarterly speakers and workshops for SMDC workforce development and faculty advisors to selected senior capstone projects at affiliated HBCUs and UAH.

"Through SUCCEED, SMDC and CCRE are committed to fostering an inclusive and diverse environment while providing real-world career experience and opportunities in the federal government," Bristol says. "The program grew out of an existing relationship between CCRE and SMDC, whereby CCRE students have had the opportunity to work on-site and off-site for various projects."



Katrina Bristol

Jim Steele