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CSRA partnership touted as “huge win” for global security and workforce development

Augusta University and Savannah River National Laboratory have sealed a partnership for workforce development, education, and technology, all with a focus on cybersecurity.

“This is a huge win because this is one of our fastest-growing areas,” AU Provost, Neil MacKinnon explained. “We have over 700 students now in our school. This provides real-world internships for them and obviously meets the workforce needs of a local employer as well. So yeah, it’s definitely a win for us and will help us continue to grow and I think increase our national prominence in the area as well.”

MacKinnon said this partnership, especially the emphasis on workforce development, is vital as Augusta continues to move farther away from the cotton production and textile mills of the 1700’s and into the forefront of the 21st-century cyber industry,

“Education, workforce development, collaborative research and technology development, and working together to influence local security issues will help Augusta University students get more involved in fields that are important to the SRLs global security issues.”

AU faculty and students and members of the SRNL gathered at the university’s Georgia Cyber Center.

Dr. Tammy Taylor, Associate Lab Director for global security at SRNL, said the workforce development component of the partnership will create a pipeline of well-educated potential employees. She said an additional benefit can mean a stable workforce.

“We’ve found over and again, that if you’re bringing people from the outside, they might stick with you for three to five years. But having people who are rooted in the community, who have extended family with the community is really important to us,” she said. “The students here at Augusta University come with deep experience rooted in the Department of Defense, primarily from other regional activities that are going on, and deep levels of certification associated with the training and the military experience that they have.”

Taylor said the pipeline can work in both directions. SRNL can count on a pool of applicants well-trained in disciplines vital to the lab. Current SRNL employees can benefit from the access to additional educational opportunities, as well as mentoring and collaborating with Augusta University faculty and staff.

Taylor only needs to look around her office to see a successful student-to-employee example.

“With respect to education and workforce development, I do have the daily inspiration of my own acting Chief of Staff, Jackie. Jackie has been so impressed with her education here at Augusta University, she hasn’t stopped championing the cause,” Taylor said.

“So, my bachelor’s is in business management. And I woke up one day and I was like, ‘I want to go work for national security,” said Jacqueline Brigitlo. “We can’t really go work for national security with a business management degree. So, I looked for programs all over and I landed at Augusta University because I wanted to stay local. So, I pursued my degree in intelligence and security studies from here, knowing that it was probably going to help me get to where I wanted to go, which was national security, and global security. And I wouldn’t be here without it.”

Dillon Tauscher graduated from Augusta University with a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity. He’s now working as an engineer in the SRNL Global Security, Cybersecurity, and Threat Assessments group while pursuing a master’s in information security management.

“Speaking from experience, students benefit immensely from these unique opportunities to learn from experts in the field and to contribute to meaningful research projects that address some of the world’s most pressing security concerns. I felt confident in my abilities as I entered the workforce, thanks to what I learned being a part of these types of projects and partnerships,” he said.

Initially, the research projects will focus on cybersecurity, cyber-physical systems, augmented and virtual reality, data analytics, mathematical modeling, and quantum cryptography.

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