Maryville University, Monsanto Fund Address Shortage in Cyber Security Jobs

A new Maryville University program funded through a $132,595 grant from the Monsanto Fund, “Cyber Ready St. Louis,” serves students and educators in the St. Louis County school districts of Jennings and Ritenour.

“The goal is to build cyber readiness among local high school students through a set of activities we are creating along with undergraduate cyber security students at Maryville,” said Rebecca Dohrman, PhD, associate professor of communication. Dohrman oversees the program and helped develop the learning strategies.

Starting salaries for cyber security jobs are expected to approach $90,000. But despite such promising figures, not enough American workers are preparing for careers in cyber security. The gap could be closed if more underrepresented workers were trained in the field; less than 14 percent of the workforce in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – are minorities.

Jennings and Ritenour are diverse, high poverty school districts. Eighty students and their teachers will participate in the program. As part of the program, they will visit Maryville’s state-of-the art Cyber Fusion Center to spark interest in the field and develop skills. Once complete, tested and revised, the curriculum will be made available free online so many more students may benefit.

“The districts will each receive tens of thousands of dollars in computing and technology equipment to be used in this curriculum which also provides an immediate benefit to the students this grant serves,” Dohrman said.

Leading the project along with Dohrman are Paul Gross assistant professor of cyber security and information systems, and Steve Coxon, PhD, associate professor of and executive director of Maryville’s Center for Access and Achievement. Coxon is a former teacher in high-poverty public schools and has extensive experience with STEM programs.

The “Cyber Ready St. Louis” program continues a relationship between the University and the Monsanto Fund. Last year, Maryville was awarded a grant of $124,710 by Monsanto Fund to encourage middle school girls in the Ritenour and Jennings school districts to explore computer coding.

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