Radford University announced today the launch of an innovative new competency-based education (CBE) program that will position the university as a national leader in training working professionals for high-demand occupations.
The groundbreaking program, called Innovative Mobile Personalized Accelerated Competency Training (IMPACT), is the first of its kind among four-year public institutions in Virginia with the goal of increasing the skills of the Commonwealth’s diverse workforce.
IMPACT will officially begin Oct. 1 with an initial focus on cybersecurity, an information technology security program in which Radford University is nationally recognized.
The university was designated in 2016 as a Center of Academic Excellence in cyber defense by both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Cybersecurity trained professionals are highly sought after in the workforce; Virginia currently has 36,000 job openings in the field. Radford University has consistently taken the lead to train and prepare its current students, faculty, K-12 students, instructors – and now, working professionals – to meet this growing demand.
In early 2018 IMPACT will focus on geospatial intelligence; in Fall of 2018 counseling, with a focus on opiates – programs in which the university is also well-positioned and acclaimed – will be added as additional programs.
IMPACT is aligned with the CBE approach, which focuses on teaching specific job-related skills that are needed to perform a critical task in the workplace. The program will be delivered online in an asynchronous, self-paced manner and will be available at a fixed cost, regardless of the timeframe in which it is completed. Working professionals who successfully complete the cybersecurity program will earn 18 credit hours. IMPACT training will also prepare them for professional certification exams.
This non-traditional teaching approach decouples learning from time-based models, such as three-hour credit courses and 14-week semesters, and enables Radford University to empower working adults in Virginia with career-advancing skills while strengthening the university’s strategic partners’ workforce.
IMPACT’s current partners range from public and private companies and government localities, such as Radford City and Montgomery and Pulaski counties, the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Credit Union League, to companies founded and owned by Radford University’s accomplished alumni, such as Studio Center, Uzurv and Cypherpath. Globally, IMPACT has signed partnerships with Ennoble First, NC4 and ManTech. Partnerships will continue to grow as IMPACT advances.
By investing in IMPACT, partners will benefit from highly-qualified employees taught efficiently and effectively by some of the university’s top faculty. These new relationships will also bring dividends to Radford University’s students and the larger community for years to come.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined local, regional and state government representatives, including Education Secretary Dietra Trent, Technology Secretary Karen Jackson, Education Deputy Secretary Nathalie Molliet-Ribet, Delegates Nick Rush and Joseph Yost ’06, M.A. ’08, as well as Radford University Board of Visitors members and President Brian O. Hemphill, IMPACT Executive Director Matt Dunleavy and other university administrators on Sept. 8 in Radford University’s Kyle Hall to introduce the ambitious endeavor to more than 550 guests at the IMPACT launch event.
Gov. McAuliffe thanked President Hemphill and the IMPACT team, lauding them as “true leaders” in higher education. He also recognized former Radford University Board of Visitor Member Mary Ann Hovis ‘65, who died last month, as a longtime supporter of the university and its students.
The governor spoke of the growing threat of cyber-attacks in Virginia and across the United States. Last year, Virginia had 78 million such attacks, he said.
“This is the biggest threat that we face as a state and a nation,” McAuliffe said. “So it was important that Virginia be the leader in cybersecurity, and we are.”
McAuliffe said that Virginia has 650 cybersecurity companies, more than any other state. Virginia also has more data centers than any other state, and more than 60 percent of the world’s Internet traffic goes through Ashburn, Virginia.
“We’re leaning in,” he said.
As these companies continue to grow and expand, so, too, is the demand for cybersecurity professionals.
“We need to fill these jobs or they’re going to leave and go to another state,” McAuliffe said.
He called higher education institutions, including Radford University, the “connective tissue” that will train students with the skills they need to fill these in-demand cybersecurity jobs.
“We are now the leaders,” he said. “We’ve got the jobs, and I want to thank all of the folks here, because now we have to train armies and armies of cyber warriors. You are at the forefront…You are leading the country, you’re making Virginia proud, you’re building a new economy in the Commonwealth of Virginia and you are giving all of these students a key to success so that they can provide for their families and participate in the American dream. That is what higher education is all about.”
President Hemphill thanked Gov. McAuliffe and members of the General Assembly present for their continued investment in higher education. He applauded the Board of Visitors for their leadership, the strategic partners for “saying yes” and rising to the challenge and students, faculty and staff for their hard work to make IMPACT a reality.
“Indeed, today is a new day for our university,” Hemphill said. “We are a university that will forever be rooted in our strong tradition of teaching and learning. But, we are also a university that has a resilient drive to innovate and a desire to be on the cutting edge. With this first-of-its-kind program in the Commonwealth, Radford University will continue to be a leader.”
IMPACT, Hemphill said, is just one example of how Radford University has made important strides in focusing on innovation and being responsive to societal needs.
“But in years ahead, we must do more to ensure that we have the skilled workforce needed to foster creativity and innovation and drive our economy to higher levels of promise and prosperity,” he continued.
Key to IMPACT’s implementation has been the campus-wide collaboration over more than six months to brainstorm, design and launch the program.
“IMPACT has been underway for 179 days, but we are building upon years of hard work and outstanding scholarship, service and teaching,” Dunleavy explained.
Dunleavy recognized several key faculty, including ACSAT Dean Orion Rogers, “who rallied behind this initiative to make it happen.”
“This has been a university-wide team effort from day one,” Dunleavy said. “This larger Radford University community and the IMPACT team coalesced around the vision and sense of mission set forth by President Hemphill. “It is President Hemphill’s leadership and vision that drives a newfound sense of identity, purpose and innovation at this university, and IMPACT is just one of many innovative initiatives that are blossoming under his leadership.”
Following the presentation, President Hemphill joined McAuliffe and state and institutional leaders to ceremoniously ring a bell that signified the beginning of IMPACT. Guests then visited several exhibits throughout the room that provided additional hands-on and in-depth information about the program.
ManTech representatives and IMPACT strategic partners Kent Warren ‘91, president of commercial services, and Tim Schaad, director of cyber range training, said IMPACT will “blend real-world experience into academics.”
“From a business perspective, anytime we can team up with an industry, including higher education institutions, and bring real-life, hard skills and training, that’s a win for everybody,” Warren said.
Schaad emphasized that those who participate in IMPACT will not only be certified, but more importantly, qualified to successfully do their jobs.
“This program is hitting a sweet spot of need,” Schaad said. “The cyber industry is so thin right now, and we need qualified professionals to fill these positions. These employees are going to help us maintain our mission of protecting information systems across the United States. They will hit the ground running.”
Warren, who sits on the Radford University Foundation Board, believes IMPACT will drive jobs in the New River Valley, and beyond.
“Right now, there is a high concentration of the cybersecurity skill set in Northern Virginia,” Warren said. “IMPACT is going to help expand this knowledge base right here in Southwest Virginia.”
As a proud alumnus and employer of many Radford University graduates, Warren said being an IMPACT strategic partner is also a way of “giving back” to his alma mater.
Radford University Data and Information Management student Jagat Dhami is a data analyst among the team of Radford University administrators, faculty and students who helped make IMPACT a reality.
“I believe IMPACT will provide a great outreach to the community,” Dhami said. “We are going to make connections with huge business icons.”
Radford City Councilman Rob Gropman called IMPACT a “real win for the city.”
“It’s going to be a catalyst…It’s going to benefit the entire region,” Gropman said.