January 22, 2024, was a historic day as Brookdale Community College cut the ribbon on the Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity Education (CECE). Located on the Lincroft, NJ campus in Gorman Hall, this 2.5-million-dollar project has officially opened its doors, marking a significant milestone in Brookdale’s commitment to advancing knowledge and expertise in the dynamic field of cybersecurity.

“The center is poised to meet the escalating demand for the cybersecurity professional,” said Brookdale President David M. Stout, Ph.D. “Our expert professors and state-of-the-art facility will provide students with the knowledge and the skills necessary to navigate the complexities of the cybersecurity landscape and to secure our digital infrastructure.”

The CECE has two identical classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology and industry-standard equipment, office space and a conference area. In each classroom, the CECE has been equipped with four 85-inch screens and 25 new computers featuring dual monitors available to faculty and students, an expanded virtual lab environment for hands-on learning, and a Secure Operations Center (SOC). The SOC has four 65-inch screens and technology enabling students to simulate and practice using the equipment found in most entry-level cybersecurity jobs.

In a time of rapid technological advancements, the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals has never been higher. Brookdale’s CECE will expand career opportunities in the high-growth fields of networking and cybersecurity. It will also provide new pathways to job opportunities, strengthen workforce preparation, and fuel economic growth.

“We requested $439,000.00 in congressional community project funding; Congressman Chris Smith went to bat for us,” said Stout. “It was a result of his advocacy that we were able to cover the match on a state grant that helped us build this facility.”

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Congressman Smith emphasized the growing cybersecurity threats and highlighted the federal government’s commitment to cyber defense education.

“Today—more than ever—individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments here and around the world need expertly trained cybersecurity professionals to protect sensitive data and systems and to defend against malicious attacks that could compromise privacy and safety,” Smith said.

Monmouth County Commissioner Director and Brookdale Liaison Thomas A. Arnone expressed full support for projects like this when presented to the commissioners. He emphasized the Community College’s consecutive number-one ranking and Monmouth County’s top status in New Jersey. “The credit goes to the boots on the ground, and innovative thinking like being at the forefront of cybersecurity that sets us apart,” he said. Arnone thanked Brookdale Community College for its impactful contributions to young adults and increasing employment opportunities.

Professor Michael Qaissaunee, Chair of the Engineering and Technology Department and the lead for the 7,591-square-foot Center, highlighted various initiatives, including virtual reality projects and artificial intelligence applications.

“My vision was for Brookdale to become the destination place for cybersecurity,” said Qaissaunee. “With our grant, we were able to create a virtual lab environment that is web-based. It is available 24-7 to students so they can conduct labs at any location any time. They can practice their skills in a closed environment, so it is safe and not going to affect their home or college network. And we have increased our capacity to 288 concurrent users.”

“Currently, the virtual lab environment is being utilized by 57 high schools throughout the state,” he explained. “In addition, we are hoping to extend dual enrollment opportunities to high school students, creating a strong regional presence.”

“Rider University and the County College of Morris are also utilizing the virtual lab,” he continued. “We are collaborating with companies to organize sessions on various job opportunities. Additionally, we have implemented a special AI avatar proficient in cybersecurity. This facilitates hands-on training and enables the arrangement and practice of interviews for specific job positions.”

In addition, Qaissaunee is the lead for the New Jersey region in NSA-sponsored national cybersecurity competitions, providing students many opportunities to learn skills outside of the classroom in a fun and engaging environment.

“As a Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency (NSA) designated National Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, Brookdale has a strong history of exceptional training to support the cybersecurity ecosystem, and this new center will not only help to advance the College’s cybersecurity training efforts; it will help to train up a new generation of ‘super cyber cops’ to defend our information systems, infrastructure, cloud computing capabilities and networks,” said Smith.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony symbolizes not only the opening of the physical doors of the building but also the doors of endless possibilities for students and the broader community. The event was attended by distinguished guests, including Congressman Chris Smith, Assemblyman Robert D. Clifton, Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, Assemblywoman Victoria A. Flynn, Assemblyman Alexander “Avi” Schnall, Commissioner Director and Brookdale Liaison Thomas A. Arnone, Commissioner Erik Anderson, and other esteemed members of the Brookdale Community College Board of Trustees.

The ceremony concluded with a resolution presented by Legislative Aid Alexandria Santiago from Senator Vin Gopal’s office and the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners and an invitation to explore the state-of-the-art facility.

For more information about Brookdale’s Network Technology and Cybersecurity program, please visit their page.