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Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security John Hill met with Anderson University political science, cybersecurity and national security majors in the Situation Room while on campus in February at the invitation of university President John Pistole.

ANDERSON — Anderson University is the recipient of a $1 million Lilly Endowment grant that will help establish the new Center for Security Studies and Cyber Defense.

The grant is a follow-up to a $95,000 Phase I planning grant the university received about a year ago to design the program. AU President John Pistole said he hopes the university will be invited to apply for a Phase III grant that could be worth as much as $10 million.

“We feel very fortunate for recognition by Lilly,” he said.

The grant will cover almost all of the expenses of launching the center, including faculty and staff salaries, equipment build out and marketing, Pistole said.

The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s $108.2 million Charting the Future of Indiana’s Colleges and Universities initiative, which is intended to ensure Indiana high school students find college-level programs that encourage them to remain in the state for post-secondary education and beyond.

The $1 million awarded to AU is the maximum available to a school of its size in this round of Lilly grants.

National security and cyber security have become increasingly important disciplines at AU under the leadership of Pistole, who served as deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The university has opened a Situation Room in Decker Hall where students for the past several years have met with current and former high-level U.S. officials to enhance their understanding of past and current events.

The development of the program is part of Pistole’s strategy to ensure AU remains distinctive, compelling and relevant.

When he received the call congratulating AU on the grant from Ted Maple, vice president of education at Lilly Endowment, Pistole said he was told that endowment officials were intrigued because the proposal was so inspiring and innovative.

“They are anxious to see how it works because they can see other schools replicating it when it works for us,” Pistole said.

The center, which will be located on the third floor of Decker Hall near the Situation Room, also has components that will be beneficial to the larger community, according to Pistole.

“Part of it will be providing cyber security assessments at reduced cost or free to not-for-profits in Madison County and Anderson,” he said.

Jennifer Coy, professor of computer science and physics and chair of AU’s Computer Science department, said a security operations center will provide hands-on experience for students as they intern for corporate, governmental, civic and social service organizations.

“Student interns and center staff will monitor the cyber traffic of our clients, providing a first line of defense and ability to respond to attacks before significant damage is done,” she said.

Closely aligned with AU’s interdisciplinary Security Studies program, the center will help students focus on national, homeland and cyber security policy and professional ethics from a Christian-faith perspective, Coy said.

She added that the Center for Security Studies and Cyber Defense “challenges our students and staff to use their expertise in ethical, constructive ways, equipping students with the knowledge and skills that can be used to preserve and promote integrity in every sector of American society.”

The center is expected to be operational by the end of the fall semester and to start serving clients in early 2021.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB,

or call 765-640-4883.

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