JSU partners with Microsoft TechSpark Initiative to expand cybersecurity readiness program

(Jackson, MS) – Jackson State University recently partnered with Microsoft to jumpstart the company’s new TechSpark initiative designed to accelerate digital equity and support inclusive economic opportunities within the STEM field. A primary focus of this initiative is to also provide collaborating partners with digital skills training, job opportunities, and industry-relevant computer science education.

Within the four-pronged initiative, Microsoft contributed financial support to the JSU College of Science Engineering and Technology department in an effort to expand the cybersecurity program that builds workforce development opportunities for JSU students. 

“It is important that HBCU students receive training in cybersecurity readiness to assist in protecting their personal information as well as the universities information and networks,” says April Tanner, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science at JSU. “Understanding malware and other types of cyberattacks, and being able to identify them make the University’s networks more secure and less vulnerable to compromise.”

Recognizing the unique opportunity to bridge the digital divide across the U.S, more specifically in Jackson, Mississippi, where marginalized communities are largely impacted, Vice President of Microsoft Philanthropies, Kate Behncken, hopes to work with local partners within Mississippi, including JSU, to address these challenges and equip the Jackson community with strong digital skills that positively impact economic growth and recovery. 

“As Mississippi’s most populous city, Jackson has vibrant deep cultural and historic roots. But we also know the longstanding barriers to opportunity continue to persist,” says Behncken, “As we have learned across our TechSpark regions, technology is rapidly changing our economy including how we communicate, learn, work, and access health care and other essential services, creating opportunities as well as challenges. Jackson, Mississippi is not immune from these changes.” 

With the program slated to begin this summer, JSU will recruit and train at least 100 students in the field of cybersecurity, exposing them to internship opportunities that provide them with practical, real-world experiences. 

Understanding the importance of a protected critical infrastructure, Jacqueline Jackson, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science at JSU, emphasized how the expanding world of digital processing and communication has also, in turn, shifted the battlefield in the war for digital privacy and data protection. 

“We are living in an age where war is no longer being solely fought on a physical battlefield. Attacks against our wellbeing now occur through cyberattacks,” says Jackson, “In order to protect our critical infrastructure, we need to continue to develop a workforce skilled in the techniques and tools of cybersecurity.” 

As the program continues to increase in both capacity and curriculum, Jackson and her fellow CSET professors look forward to providing students with access to academic and professional development opportunities in areas of critical importance to the world today.