AZSecure SFS Fellowship Overview

The Masters in Information Systems at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management is renowned for its consistent ranking in the top five MIS programs in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, for over 30 consecutive years (an achievement matched only by MIT and Carnegie-Mellon), and its highly successful Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (NSA/DHS CAE-CDE) program in information security and analytics. Information Security has been one of the MIS Department’s three “pillars of excellence” and additional educational opportunities are now available to students with the launch of a Masters in Cybersecurity in the summer of 2017 and the new cybersecurity course options such as the CyberWarfare capstone course that the Masters in Cybersecurity program brings.

The AZSecure Cybersecurity Scholarship-for-Service (SFS) Program at the University of Arizona is aimed at recruiting from across the state, with particular emphasis on minority recruitment and retention. The goal is to help broaden representation in science and technology and increase interest in and technological competence for government service. Cybersecurity and Information Assurance are critical to meeting the demands for the availability and ensuring the integrity of a modern, globally-networked infrastructure. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Association for Information Systems (AIS) information systems curriculum guidelines of May 2010 specifically addressed the growing need for and demands upon security professionals. The biggest challenge facing employers is finding employees with the right security skills, including operations security, information security risk management, and security management practices (Goodwin 2010), as such, the SFS program is timely, relevant, and beneficial.

Admitted students receive full tuition and stipend funding as well as an annual book allowance, support for professional development, extensive support for obtaining internships and post-degree placement, and mentorship supporting their independent research.

Masters students in the AZSecure Cybersecurity Fellowship Program are required to conduct independent research and write a Master's Thesis in their final semester in the program. Students are encouraged to collaborate with faculty and other students, present at conferences, and submit their research for publication. Fellowship students are matched with faculty and senior Ph.D. students who share their research interests for mentoring throughout their program and meet regularly with the Program Administrator, Dr. Mark Patton, for reviews of their progress, academic plan, and Independent Studies.  They also attend the Artificial Intelligence Lab's weekly research meetings with Dr. Hsinchun Chen and report out on their independent and team research progress.

Students engage in ongoing development activities outside the classroom including participation in SFS conferences and seminars. During the academic-terms, students participate in bi-weekly meetings which regularly include seminars on cutting-edge security research, emerging security challenges, and the latest developments in security practice. Activities combine a focus on Information Security with a casual, social atmosphere. These individual and group meetings provide students with opportunities to ask more in-depth questions and receive feedback and individualized mentoring from involved and concerned faculty members as well as obtain exposure to research conducted by other students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Selected SFS student research has appeared in major security conferences and journals, including IEEE ISI, HICSS, and JMIS.

The AZSecure SFS Fellowship Program leverages the University of Arizona’s unique research and teaching strengths in cybersecurity, information systems, security informatics, computer science, computer engineering, and related coursework. The program produces graduate students who meet critical needs in the cybersecurity workforce and who are very well prepared to face the daunting security challenges facing IT progress generally and governmental information systems specifically.


PI and Co-PIs

The PI, Dr. Hsinchun Chen, is Regents’ Professor of Management Information Systems, and has over thirty years’ experience in educating and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students through the MIS program. As the Director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab, he also has over twenty-five years’ experience as a successful PI for numerous security-related research projects funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and other agencies and entities. Dr. Mark Patton, Co-PI and Program Administrator is a member of the department’s Information Assurance and Security Education Center and carries significant responsibility for the administration of and teaching in the current program. Our approach to managing the program is deliberately cross disciplinary and intended to support the broadest definition of cybersecurity, including information assurance, network security, trustworthy computing, and risk management for IT. Dr. Salim Hariri of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department serves as Co-PI. Dr. Hariri is Co-Director of the NSF Center for Autonomic Computing and brings a wealth of experience in cyber- and network security. Faculty members from ECE, MIS, and Computer Science provide mentorship to SFS students. Many of the SFS students participate in the Hacker Web research project.

The program was initially budgeted to support 40 participants and as of 2017 has seen 16 graduates, and currently has 12 students enrolled.

 “Cybersecurity Scholarship-for-Service at The University of Arizona” (AZSecure), PIs: H. Chen, P. Goes (MIS), S. Hariri (ECE), M. Patton (MIS), DUE-1303362, NSF SFS Program, 9/15/2013-8/31/2018, $4.2M.