ROCK SPRINGS — The Western Wyoming Community College Board of Trustees unanimously approved the establishment of a new curriculum in cybersecurity at their January 12 meeting, but no one will be able to sign up for the program just yet. The new curriculum is tentatively set to begin during Fall Semester 2023.
Dr. Cliff Wittsruck, Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs, made the request to the Board for approval of the Cybersecurity Associate of Applied Science Degree and the Cybersecurity Certificate Program.
Wittstruck cautioned that Board approval is “just the first step” in the process necessary before Cybersecurity degree classes can begin. Further groups must weigh in, including various academic officers and the “higher learning commission” before Western can begin offering the Cybersecurity program. However, Wittstruck did not offer any indication that such approvals would be problematic. Financing must also be determined.
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The AAS Degree in Cybersecurity would require 60 course credits for completion. The Cybersecurity Certificate Program would require 30 course credits for completion. The rationale for the Certificate Program, Wittstruck said, was that some students need to find jobs quickly.
Wittstruck reiterated the information from the agenda item details, that the proposed program would include several computer science and information systems courses to prepare students for cybersecurity positions.
“There is near 100 percent job placement” in the field of cybersecurity,” Wittsruck said. He added that currently there are approximately 770,000 advertised unfilled cybersecurity positions in the United States, with likely more such jobs around that are not advertised.
The proposed Cybersecurity AAS and Certificate programs will be submitted to the Wyoming Community College Commission for their consideration. Western will be the first community college in Wyoming to offer AAS and Certificate programs in cybersecurity.
Part-time Students Now Using Campus Housing
Dean of Students Dr. Dustin Conover presented his “Housing & Student Life Annual Report” to the Board. Conover mentioned that his new office is closer to the central part of the Western campus, and thus more convenient for connecting with students. Conover added that following Board approval for part-time students to live in campus housing, there were now 45 students taking less than 12 credits currently living in student housing. Part-time students will help to ensure more complete occupancy of campus residential housing, Conover said.
“Those students would probably not be living in student housing” without the Board’s approval for part- timers to live in Western residence halls, Conover emphasized.
Conover added that Aspen Hall would likely assist in hosting visiting sports teams at a reduced rate. Students needing temporary campus housing, such as students taking online courses but who perhaps may need to attend an on-campus lab session, for example, would also benefit from the Aspen option.
“Western Welcome” is a new program aimed at incoming students, Conover explained. The program is intended to provide updates and information to new students in between the high points of application, acceptance, registration and first day of classes.
Another new idea being implemented is the “Thunder into the weekend” initiative, Conover said, which encourages Western students, faculty and staff to wear Western-themed clothing on Fridays.
Applications Up, But Numbers Incomplete
Dr. Eric Fry, Dean of Enrollment Management, reported to the Trustees that applications for enrollment were up 7 percent for Fall Semester 2023, but he cautioned that figures for current and projected enrollment were preliminary and will not be the final numbers.
“They may not all enroll,” Fry said, for a number of reasons. There are five counties in the Western Wyoming Community College District, he added, and some high schools in the district require their seniors to apply to Western even if they have no intention of enrolling at Western.
The number of high school students taking dual enrollment courses at Western during Spring Semester also remains to be fully determined.
Overall, though, the numbers of applications and enrollments were “positive”, Fry said.
Board President Resigns
The Jan. 12 Western Board of Trustees meeting was chaired by Vice President James Jessen. Board President Dr. Veronica Donaldson did not attend the meeting and Jessen presented her letter of resignation to the board for approval. Donaldson said in her letter that she was leaving “with a heavy heart” and her house in Rock Springs is already sold.
The Board unanimously accepted Donaldson’s resignation. Information regarding how to submit a letter of interest in applying for the vacant Board of Trustees position will be posted in local media. The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for February. 9.