Cybersecurity Award for Workforce Development Goes to SDSU

The university received the San Diego Business Journal award for its education and career-training offerings in collaboration with Haiku.

Monday, October 30, 2023
SDSU received the San Diego Business Journals Cybersecurity Workforce Development Initiative of the Year Award  Public. (SDSU)
SDSU received the San Diego Business Journals Cybersecurity Workforce Development Initiative of the Year Award Public. (SDSU)

San Diego State University has been awarded the San Diego Business Journal’s Cybersecurity Workforce Development Initiative of the Year Award – Public. 

SDSU was recognized Monday for its innovative workforce development partnership, formed between its Cyber Security and Intelligence Student Club and Haiku, winner of the same Cybersecurity Stewardship Award this year for the private sector. 

“We are humbled and incredibly honored to be recognized by SDBJ for our innovative partnership with Haiku. We thank the San Diego Business Journal, the Cyber Center of Excellence, the panel of judges and our peers for recognizing SDSU's unique project and approach,” said Jerry Sheehan, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. 

“SDSU’s strategic plan is focused on a foundation of students at our core; SDSU embraced that vision and has now begun to open new pipelines to underrepresented communities to well-paying information security jobs in the region,” Sheehan said, also explaining that SDSU’s innovation comes from “three ingredients:” 

  • Trusting our students: “We trusted that our students had the drive and execution to find new ways to discuss cybersecurity opportunities with their peers,” Sheehan said. 
  • Working in collaboration with the private sector: “We partnered with Haiku to bring their software development expertise in teaching cybersecurity skills to the university,” he also said. “This allowed us to stand on their shoulders and leverage their investment to benefit our students.” 
  • Institutional leadership: “I want to acknowledge the strong leadership of President Adela de la Torre, who encourages innovation and helps amplify that message across our campus community.”

“Winning this award reinforces our commitment to staying true to our core goals – we’re more committed than ever to making quality education accessible to everyone and building a workforce that reflects the diversity of our community,” said Ricardo Fitipaldi, Chief Information Security Officer in the IT Security Office.  

Career training through education and play 

The central tool of the SDSU/Haiku partnership is a role-playing game, "World of Haiku,” which immerses students in a virtual environment promoting the development of essential cybersecurity skills. 

"At the Haiku event, I was immersed in a vibrant crowd of passionate peers, all eager to elevate their cyber defense skills,” said Avi Martin, who is majoring in geographic information science (GIS). “It was also the perfect platform to network with industry professionals.” 

After only 90 minutes of gameplay, initial assessments can reveal improvements in students' understanding of cybersecurity. SDSU students who complete the game earn badges qualifying them for the SDSU Security Fellowship. This fellowship helps equip students with marketable technical skills that make them highly attractive to future employers. 

Chris Clements, president of the Cyber Security and Intelligence Club, said the group was established in fall 2022 and has since grown to 42 members, and all actively participate in Haiku. 

“What excites us most about the club is the opportunity for students to connect outside of classes by doing something that is fun and engaging. Little do they know, they are also building a resume of skills and experience that can help launch their careers,” said Clements, a student in SDSU’s graduate-level homeland security program, which includes the study of cybersecurity issues. 

“Our relationship with SDSU and Haiku is already having a positive impact on employment prospects for students,” Clements added. 

Other SDSU offerings

SDSU maintains numerous programs and initiatives dedicated to studying, training about and actively addressing cybersecurity-related issues. 

In 2022, the university announced the creation of the Cybersecurity Center for Academic Excellence (SDSUCCAE), a center that will become a platform to research cybersecurity topics including offensive and defensive cyber operations, secure mobile computing, secure software design and development, digital privacy, network, homeland security and other issues. SDSUCCAE will also support cybersecurity workforce development to meet the industry and government demands.

Within the Information Technology Division, the Informational Technology Security Office (ITSO) team regularly executes educational campaigns to educate students, faculty and staff on how best to protect themselves and the university’s resources while online.

While the university focuses on cybersecurity all year round, October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. 

Throughout Cybersecurity Awareness Month, ITSO is offering activities, games, workshops and webinars designed to engage the campus community thoughtfully and interactively while also educating them on their roles, trends and resources. Information on these opportunities is available via social media and on the university’s dedicated Cybersecurity Awareness Month website.

Categorized As