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School of Graduate and Professional Studies

Southern is joining the nationwide effort to help the U.S. Department of Defense bolster cybersecurity in its supply chain amid concerns over the recent hack into federal agencies – including American nuclear weapons agencies.

Software produced by Solar Winds, a Texas-based company that has contracts with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies such as the Defense Department, was reported late last year to have been breached by Russian hackers. It enabled the perpetrators to “see into” the networks of clients of Solar Winds.

And just this month, a group of Switzerland-based hackers accessed footage from an estimated 150,000 surveillance cameras operated by Silicon Valley’s Verkada, Inc. The cameras operated inside of police departments, hospitals, schools, prisons and various companies, including car manufacturer Tesla.

Southern’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies has partnered with Data Intelligence Technologies of Virginia to launch a certification program this summer that will help defense contractors and subcontractors protect sensitive information.

“Security breaches occur every day, but not at the magnitude of the Solar Winds and Verkada incidents,” said Lisa Lancor, chair of the SCSU Computer Science Department. “These are huge and underscore the need to build a strong, cybersecurity workforce.”

Last year, the U.S. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment introduced the Cyber Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a new standard for suppliers to operate within the Defense Department’s acquisition and procurement process. All companies that provide supplies for the department’s projects operations – such as defense contractors – will need to be certified. The requirements are being phased in by Oct. 1, 2025.

Contractors have been able to merely attest they were in compliance with safety standards by conducting self-assessments. But under the new system, third-party trained professionals will assess whether those standards are being met. Southern will help Data Intelligence Technologies teach those who seek to become certified assessors and professionals.

“The Defense Department has perhaps the largest global supply chain, which means it deals with a wide array of organizations,” Lancor said. “These organizations are constantly under hacker attacks. In fact, the malicious cyber activity cost to the U.S. economy in 2016 was estimated at more than $100 billion.”

She noted that cybersecurity is an increasingly lucrative field, and this certification program should prove valuable to those pursuing a career in cybersecurity. The CMMC Accreditation Body specifies a clearly defined path through its certifications with each certificate building on the next. For example, before becoming a Certified CMMC Assessor – Level 1, (CCA-1), a person would have to become a Certified CMMC Professional (CCP).

“Currently, there are no CMMC-certified assessors who can do the assessment of companies that have defense contracts, such as Sikorsky Aircraft and Pratt & Whitney,” Lancor said. “This opens up a huge market for anyone who wants to get into CMMC as a career, helping to secure organizations from external hackers. The CCP certificate is also of interest to companies that have contracts, or sub-contracts, or sub-sub-contracts, with the Defense Department so they can better prepare for their CMMC assessments.”

Manohar Singh, dean of the SCSU School of Graduate and Professional Studies, said this initiative will benefit students, as well as the local and state economy, and the national interest.

“Southern is committed to offering innovative programs in the areas critical to national interests and community service,” he said.

Lancor said the CCP, CCA-1 and CCA-3 (Certified CMMC Assessor – Level 3) will be available at SCSU, and others will roll out as the CMMC Accreditation Body defines the standards for future assessor certificates.

CCPs and CCAs must be trained by a CMMC-approved Licensed Training Provider (such as Data Intelligence Technologies), and CMMC-Accrediting Body Certified Instructors, and then tested by the CMMC Accreditation Body. When an individual passes that test, they become certified at the level of their testing and can work for a Certified 3rd Party Assessment Organization (C3PAO) that would go out and assess contractors and all of their subcontractors, according to Lancor.

She said the partnership with Data Intelligence Technologies will enable SCSU students pursuing a Master of Science degree in computer science with a cybersecurity concentration to receive the training for free.

SCSU plans to offer the following courses:

*A primer, 8-hour, online course, “Certified Professionals Essentials,” which will describe the CMMC program in detail. This is appropriate for those wishing to learn the new requirements and is designed for a varied audience from manufacturing executives who have Defense Department contracts to compliance lawyers and IT consultants who provide support for the defense industrial base.

*A CCP course that will provide 40 hours of instruction preparing someone to take the CCP exam.

*A CCA-1 course that is a three-day hybrid (mixture of in-class and online instruction) offering.

*A CCA-3 course that is a five-day hybrid offering.

For further information, go to:  https://www.southernct.edu/cmmc

Dr. Jonathan Wharton
Dr. Jonathan Wharton

Jonathan Wharton, associate professor of political science and urban affairs, has agreed to continue to serve as the full-time interim associate dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies for another year. He served in this role for the fall semester, beginning August 26, 2020. Given the complexities the COVID-19 situation poses in conducting a nationwide search, the arrangement allows the university to maintain continuity for ensuring student success and effective completion of the ongoing SGPS and SCSU initiatives. Wharton has “passion for, and a proven track record in, effectively contributing to graduate education at SCSU,” said Manohar Singh, dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Wharton is faculty advisor to SCSU’s College Republicans, College Democrats, and Golf Club. He earned his BA in history, cum laude; MPA (Public Policy Analysis); and Ph.D. in political science, state and local government from Howard University, and an MA in history from Rutgers University.

Wharton’s full-time appointment began January 1, 2021. The search for a permanent associate dean has been postponed and will be resumed at an opportune time.

Manohar Singh, dean, SCSU School of Graduate and Professional Studies

Southern has tapped Manohar Singh, former dean of the College of Professional Studies at Humboldt State University (Arcata, Calif.) with a track record of initiating new programs, to become the new dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Singh recently began his new duties after a nationwide search concluded last November. Robert Prezant, provost and vice president for academic affairs, called him a “proven fundraiser,” and noted that he has been making the rounds on campus to meet members of the campus community and to increase his understanding of the graduate program needs.

“When you see him, please join me in sharing a hearty Southern welcome,” Prezant said. “I also want to thank Dr. Jose Galvan who recently served as our interim dean with enthusiasm and wonderful dedication.”

At Humboldt, Singh helped launch an effort to raise $10 million for an endowed R.N. to B.S.N. program. He also led the development of new programs, such as online programs in education in collaboration with Cal State Tech.

Before his role at Humboldt, he served as division head for the Division of Business and Social Sciences at Penn State University – Abington, and interim chair of the Department of Finance at Long Island University.

At Penn State, he led the effort to establish new academic programs, such as a fast track M.B.A. in collaboration with Penn State Great Valley, as well as bachelor’s degrees in rehabilitation and human services, and in accounting. He also launched four minors.

He has a background in finance and economics, having earned a Ph.D. in finance from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and two master’s degrees in economics – an M.A. from the University of Waterloo-Ontario, Canada, and an M.A. with honors from Punjab University in India.

Singh has earned many faculty awards, including the Great Valley Award for Teaching Excellence from Penn State and the University of Nevada-Reno College of Business Researcher of the Year Award.

He served as chairman of the Penn State Grand Valley Faculty Senate and has held the title of full professor of finance since 2016.

Singh said he is excited about the opportunity to serve as the new graduate school dean, especially at this point in Southern’s development.

“I see a rewarding opportunity to serve as an anchor and a champion for our students’ personal and professional success,” he said. “It is a privilege to be part of an institution that is a pioneer in so many ways and is on an impressive upward trajectory.”

Singh said he would like the school to stand out for scientific rigor, social responsibility, market responsiveness and innovation.

“We already have several initiatives in progress to offer market demand-driven, flexible, and affordable, graduate programs in emerging areas,” he said. “We are expanding our non-degree credentials and certificate programs to serve the dynamic needs of working professionals and adult students as they aim to advance their careers.

“In addition, we are reaching out to the area employers to assess their needs and offer them customized educational and training programs for their employees. And we are creating meaningful and impactful community partnerships to promote socio-economic prosperity and regional economic development in the greater New Haven area.”