HCC designated as National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

Sep 7, 2023

Houston Community College (HCC) has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CE) by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The designation through the 2028 academic year means that HCC is a trusted institution for cybersecurity education and can help meet the increasing demands for highly trained people who can contribute to the protection of the national information infrastructure. This is the second five-year period that HCC has held the prestigious designation.

"A highly skilled cybersecurity workforce is a strategic national security advantage," said Renae Weathers, the NSA’s National CAE program manager. “The U.S. government will continue to invest in and enhance programs that build the domestic talent pipeline, from primary through postsecondary education."

“This redesignation is significant in that it underscores the college’s commitment to provide our students with the high-level skills and knowledge needed to succeed in fields like cybersecurity,” said Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher, HCC interim chancellor. “As the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow, HCC is positioned perfectly to help both government and industry protect our nation's cyber infrastructure.”

“Achieving and maintaining the prestigious CAE-CD designation is highly demanding due to its stringent requirements around academic rigor, institutional support, faculty and staff credentials, student engagement, and community involvement,” said Samir Saber, dean of the Digital and Information Technology Center of Excellence.

More than 600 students are currently enrolled in HCC’s cybersecurity programs, said Dr. Fidelis Ngang, faculty division chair. About 450 are pursuing associate degrees and around 200 are working toward certificates, he said.

HCC’s Security Operations Center at the West Loop campus includes a simulated training lab where students study using state-of-the-art equipment, learning how to detect and defend against simulated cyberattacks within a controlled environment. Scenarios are replayed and analyzed afterward as concepts are taught.

"We will continue to invest in state-of-the-art technology and laboratories such as the Security Operations Center,” said Dr. Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, vice chancellor of Workforce Instruction and president of HCC’s Southwest College. “This will ensure HCC remains at the forefront as a leader in cybersecurity education and is developing the talent pipeline so critical to our country."

According to Cyberseek, a cyber career information organization, there are over 660,000 current cybersecurity job openings in the U.S., and employers are struggling to find qualified workers.

“Students who complete an associate degree or certificate in cybersecurity at HCC are landing high-paying jobs right out of the gate,” Dr. Ngang said.

For more information about HCC's cybersecurity program, please visit

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