CyberMontana Advances UM’s Mission to be Cybersecurity Hub for Treasure State

MISSOULA – The University of Montana is fortifying its positions as the cybersecurity center for the entire Treasure State.

Coming on the heels of a 2023 U.S. Government Accountability Office report that illustrates how unprepared American infrastructure is to fight cybercrime, UM’s CyberMontana has expanded statewide outreach to grow Montana’s cybersecurity workforce.

CyberMontana, the state’s hub for cyber workforce education, has delivered technical and non-technical cyber education to 35 schools in 26 Montana communities since receiving the Montana’s Future at Work grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation in 2022. These visits include many rural Montana communities that lack access to up-to-date cybersecurity assets, such as Augusta, Bridger and White Sulphur Springs.

“Montana’s cyber defense posture is only as strong as our cybersecurity workforce,” said Dianne Burke, director of CyberMontana and a cybersecurity faculty member at Missoula College. “CyberMontana is filling one of our state’s greatest needs, and by bringing STEM and cyber education directly to Montana’s high schools, we can build the durable cybersecurity workforce pipeline that is needed to keep our state safe and secure.”

CyberMontana offers Montanans access to K-12 cyber education, hosts STEM summer camps for aspiring cyber professionals, security awareness training, as well as supports UM’s cybersecurity degree programs.

Isabella Sheehan, a Grass Range high school student who is working to secure a certificate of Technical Studies from CyberMontana, expressed her excitement for what lay ahead after completing the program.

“I changed my mind about going to college after enrolling with CyberMontana,” Sheehan said. “This certificate allows me to start working, and I am excited to look for potential jobs in this growing field.”

Last year, Conrad high school student Brady Barnhill became the first Montana high school student to enroll in Missoula College’s cybersecurity dual enrollment program. Barnhill is enrolled in UM currently to continue his cybersecurity studies.

In addition to the non-credit and credential education provided by CyberMontana, Missoula College provides students access to a two-year cybersecurity degree program and UM’s College of Business offers the state’s only four-year cybersecurity degree. These two cybersecurity degrees are stackable, meaning a student who earns their two-year associate degree can then complete the four-year bachelor’s degree program with just an additional two years of coursework.