by Jamie Calvert, Staff Writer

The University of West Florida’s cybersecurity program demonstrated its success on Thursday at the Cybersecurity Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) Grant Showcase in Washington, D.C. The showcase was administered by the Department of Homeland Security and the NSA, both of whom designated UWF’s Center for Cybersecurity as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

Representatives from 15 universities along with participating federal agencies and related industry celebrated 20 years of cybersecurity excellence and discussed securing the nation’s cyber future.

UWF was one of the institutions chosen to participate in the showcase. The director of the Center for Cybersecurity, Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, attended the showcase on behalf of the university and says that she is proud of the success and advancements that have been made here.

“It was a tremendous honor to be among the select few universities who participated in such an important discussion,” El-Sheikh said. “Cybersecurity is critical to our economic and national security, and we continue to lead efforts to advance cybersecurity education and workforce development through innovative programs and partnerships.”

El-Sheikh has extensive expertise in cybersecurity education, research and workforce development and received several awards related to cybersecurity education and diversity.

She is also a Visiting Research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition. Her research interests include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and machine learning. El-Sheikh has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles and given over 60 research presentations and invited talks.

Congressman Matt Gaetz attended the showcase and said that he was impressed with the Center’s work.

“I am continually impressed by the good work of UWF’s Center for Cybersecurity, which was on full display at the Cybersecurity Centers of Academic Excellence Grant Showcase today,” Gaetz said. “Dr. El-Sheikh is doing wonderful work at UWF. The students who graduate from these extremely valuable programs will help America, now and into the future.”

Gaetz acknowledged that the Center is at the forefront of providing leadership to advance cybersecurity education.

“The Department of Defense, recognizing the threat of cyber-warfare, recently elevated Cybercom to a unified combatant command,” Gaetz said. “Cyber-warfare poses a real danger to America — but schools like UWF’s Center for Cybersecurity show that we can and will overcome any cyber-threats we face.”

El-Sheikh saw the support from the congressman, and extended her thanks.

“I would also like to thank Congressman Gaetz for taking time out of his busy schedule to support our efforts,” she said. “The support of our elected officials is invaluable in securing our nation’s cyber future.”

The Center, along with the designations from the NSA and Homeland Security, is one of nine Cybersecurity CAE Regional Source Centers in the nation. It is considered the regional cybersecurity hub of the Southeast, providing education and workforce development at several colleges and universities.