Legislative Interims: Marshall University working in the field of Cyber security

By Autumn Shelton, WV Press Association

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University is positioning itself to become a national leader in the field of cyber security, and, according to General Counsel Toney Stroud, leadership is working hard to make that happen. 

While speaking before members of the legislative Joint Standing Committee on Economic Development and Tourism on Tuesday, Stroud said that with the recent influx of new businesses into West Virginia, the state has witnessed a steady stream of economic growth. Now, this growth may be further enhanced by educating today’s students to become regional cyber security professionals tomorrow. 

“We want to prepare our students for jobs,” Stroud said. “We have to find a way to keep our students – our graduates – here in the state of West Virginia. Cyber security is one way that I think we can do that.” 

Stroud explained that the growing Marshall University Institute for Cyber Security will give students the opportunity to gain knowledge in a field that boasts high pay, a need to fill 3.5 million job openings until 2025, and an expected growth rate of 33% per year until 2030. 

“We want to offer certificate programs in cyber security [and] offer different curriculum across the board for those in cyber security,” he continued, noting that the planned Institute for Cyber Security building will be state-of-the-art and designed for government and industry partnerships. 

The building will be constructed in the innovation district, and be about 80,000 sq. ft, according to Stroud. It will serve as an anchor building along with the soon to be completed Brad D. Smith Center for Business and Innovation, which is scheduled to open during the 2024 Spring semester. 

Additionally, the building will contain classroom space, a cyber security competition suite for the cyber team (that has scored within the top 1% of teams in a national competition), anchor suites for corporate partners, video and mobile forensics labs, an open-source intelligence lab, an industrial control system complete with a “smart city,” and more, Stroud said. 

“Marshall University will soon be designated as a Center for Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency,” Stroud noted. “Once we get that designation, that will kick us up to another level. Not many institutions can carry that designation with them.” 

So far, with assistance from U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, Marshall University has received a $5 million federal grant to get started on phase one of construction, which Stroud said will begin this fall by building a security operations center at the engineering annex building. Stroud further noted that other grants have been submitted for additional projects. 

Phase two of the project is construction of the Institute for Cyber Security building, and phase three will involve a partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission as the University fulfills its vision of becoming a hub for regional cyber security, Stroud said. 

“What we hope to do here is partner with other community colleges, other universities, and create the same curriculum that would have to be approved by NSF (National Science Foundation),” Stroud said. “Once this gets approved we will be able to train others. So this will be a facility where we can establish the curriculum, put that curriculum out to other universities, and help the entire country with training for cybersecurity.” 

“This is a very exciting opportunity that we have in Huntington here at Marshall University, and for the state of West Virginia,” Stroud concluded. 

Also during the meeting, committee members agreed to hold over approval of revisions for two former House bills that were not passed during the recent legislative session, including HB 2064 (Tourism and Commercial Opportunity Zones) and HB 3007 (Small Business Payroll Tax Credit), until a future meeting. 

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