Clemson University students get hands-on cyber experience

About 12 students get hands-on experience dealing with cybersecurity and network issues, while the university gets additional monitors at no cost.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – Clemson University is getting serious about cyber.

The public research institution in South Carolina opened a Cybersecurity Operations Center earlier this year, which gives students real-world experience working on a major network – and gives the college a strengthened security system for virtually no cost.

Kevin McKenize, chief information security officer at the university, shared details about the program during the Cyber Security for Higher Education gathering, hosted by the International Quality Productivity Center, which sponsors conferences on management solutions for various industries. IT leaders from Columbia University and other top institutions spoke about security policies, challenges and best practices in their schools.

“We wanted to build a facility that is totally student-focused,” said McKenzie, adding that 12 students currently monitor Clemson’s network, create predictive analyses and carry out investigations on suspicious activity in return for college credit.


“They’re finding real problems in our environment for us, and they have a sense that they’re securing their institution,” he said. “They have a sense of pride about it, and we’re teaching them skills.”

McKenzie said the center, which is overseen by an engineer full time, was funded by the CIO’s office. McKenzie is now in charge of making it a self-sustaining center. He was able to convince engineering and software vendors to get on board supplying different tools that students would likely get comfortable using and take with them in their careers.

“I’ve got some corporation throwing their software at me,” he said.

The school is now working on the second phase of the center – writing course curriculum with the university’s School of Computing.

When a security official from another university raised concerns about liability, McKenzie said colleges should see students as having the same knowledge and responsibilities as regular school employees.


“We shouldn’t think about students differently than employees,” he said. “They have the skills.”

IQPC is hosting its second annual Cyber Security for Defense Summit in June. For more information, visit

Reach the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.

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