State Farm Donates $3M to Illinois State University’s New Cybersecurity Program

State Farm just made a big donation to fund the first cybersecurity major in the state of Illinois.

The Bloomington-based insurance giant donated $3 million to Illinois State University to support the central Illinois school’s new cybersecurity major, launching this fall.

The donation will go toward an endowed chair position for the cybersecurity major in ISU’s School of Information Technology, which includes overseeing curriculum, securing grants, setting research agendas and coordinating extracurricular cybersecurity events, such as the Central Illinois High School Cyber Defense Competition and collegiate cybersecurity competitions, ISU said. The funding will also go toward renovating space for the new program.

“Illinois State’s new cybersecurity program will focus on a topic of critical importance to society,” said ISU President Larry Dietz in a statement. “This innovative new major is one additional way we can help our students succeed in a technology-driven world. We are thankful State Farm recognized the importance of this program and chose to support us by funding learning space updates and a leadership position.”

Cybersecurity is a growing concern as hacks hit headlines every month (and those are just the reported attacks). The need for cybersecurity talent has increased as well: In 2016 there were over 209,000 open cybersecurity positions in the US, and demand is expected to grow by 53 percent by 2018.

Cyber defense-focused programs have started to pop up in response. Cybersecurity bootcamp Evolve Security Academy opened last year in 1871. Earlier this year the City Colleges of Chicago and the DoD announced that a six-month pilot cybersecurity “boot camp,” based on training prototyped with military personnel, will be held at Wright Junior College.

However, ISU’s cybersecurity program is the first major offered in the state of Illinois, the school said, and includes courses on defensive security, offensive security, and a combination of security incident and event management with forensics. The first classes will start this upcoming fall.


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