- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

MADISON, S.D. (AP) - Dakota State University in Madison is reinforcing its specialty in cyber security by offering a new doctoral degree this fall.

The doctor of science in cyber security degree is designed to prepare students for cyber security careers in government agencies and the private sector, or to teach the topic at higher education institutions. It marks just the second doctoral degree offered at Dakota State.

University officials expect to admit 20 students and graduate about 18 annually once the program is fully ramped up. The South Dakota Board of Regents approved the degree this week, but it must also receive approval by the Higher Learning Commission.

Campus officials expect that many of Dakota State’s undergraduate and graduate students in computer science and information assurance will be interested in the new degree program.

Omar El-Gayar, Dakota State’s dean of graduate studies and research, said cyber security experts are in great demand, and the school has established itself as a leader in the field.

“We’re really capitalizing on our accomplishments at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” El-Gayar said.

In 2011, the school received a $1.3 million cyber security scholarship commitment from the National Science Foundation. The Federal Cyber Service “Scholarship for Service” program seeks to increase the number of qualified students entering the fields of information assurance and computer security.

And last November, First Premier Bank founder T. Denny Sanford, and DSU alumnus Miles Beacom, founder of the bank’s credit card business, donated $5 million for an information technology center that could include a facility to help students pursue careers in cyber security.

The money will be used to help buy and renovate the current Madison Community Hospital building when a new hospital opens in 2015. The hospital, which separates the two sections of the Dakota State campus in Madison, will be transformed into the Beacom Institute of Technology with 60,000 square feet of classroom space.

Madison Mayor Roy Lindsay said the addition of the degree will further strengthen the program, which has gone from drawing students from the region to enticing applicants from both coasts.

“It’s fantastic,” Lindsay said. “It highlights Madison as a place of higher education. It really makes us stand out.”

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