Southern University has been signed on as an academic partner with a cybersecurity center being built by defense contractor X Corp Solutions near the nation’s capital and adjacent to Marine Corps Base Quantico to train and certify professionals in cybersecurity.

The Center of Excellence for Cybersecurity venture involving the university, along with the Southern University System Foundation, is "a game-changer for Southern and an example of how we respond to the demands of our society,” said Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System and chancellor of Southern University Baton Rouge.

With an office in the Washington area near the FBI training and research academy and other employers, the Center of Excellence will offer a number of certifications to individuals  entering the field or expanding their skill set. Employers also will be able to send staff to the center to earn credentials.

While the main office is on the East Coast, Southern’s on-campus and online students, faculty and staff will also benefit from the center’s offerings, Belton said.

Classroom lectures at the Quantico Corporate Center can be broadcast to classrooms at Southern’s campuses. Additionally, Southern will assist Stafford, Virginia-based X Corp and the American Cyber League in creating certification programs for professionals already working in the cybersecurity field, or those hoping to join it. The three-floor facility will feature a café, traditional and global classrooms; a certified testing center, conference room and administrative offices. It is slated to open and begin offering courses by August.

“This center creates a fertile ground for our students and faculty in terms of internships, research opportunities and entrepreneurship,” said James Ammons, the university’s chief academic officer. “We will offer classes in our curriculum, and students will be able to walk across the stage at commencement with a degree and a number of certifications. This definitely gives them a competitive edge in this global marketplace.”

Data breaches have created a demand in cybersecurity, with qualified employees remaining scarce, and that demand is something Southern will fill, Belton said.