Dakota State aims for the top in cyber research, education


Dakota State University plans to create a major national hub for cybersecurity research and education, thanks to a multimillion-dollar private gift to the Madison, South Dakota, school and supplemental federal and state funding.

Premier Bankcard president and Dakota State alumnus Miles Beacom, his wife Lisa, and Denny Sanford, owner of the Premier Bank and Premier Bankcard have given $30 million to Dakota State to fund the construction of the new Madison Cyber Labs, where students and researchers will work on classified and proprietary projects for the military and private industry around the world. The gift also will fund cyber scholarships for students and the expansion of faculty and staff.

In addition, Gov. Dennis Daugaard has pledged $10 million in state funding, and the university will leverage a further $20 million from federal sources as well as from private donors to propel what officials call the “transformation” of its current College of Computing.

In recognition of the gift, Dakota State will change the name of the college to the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences. Miles Beacom said the timing of the influx of new funding for cyber “couldn’t be more critical,” pointing out that last year there were an estimated 300,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States.

While the university’s computer science department already holds four Center of Excellence designations from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security for its work in cybersecurity, the new Beacom College will put South Dakota at the “leading edge” of cyber research and education, Daugaard said.

“By the year 2020, organizations are expected to spend more than $101 billion on cybersecurity efforts to protect systems data,” he said. “Beacom College will be a major boost for DSU, Madison and for our entire state. With [the new funding], Madison can continue to create a new economic development cluster that will attract high-paying jobs, give former students the ability to ‘come home,’ create cutting-edge companies and grow our state’s economy.”

Moreover, “we are rising to a position of national and global expertise in cybersecurity education and research,” he said of South Dakota.

Bob Sutton, president of the South Dakota Board of Regents, said that students are “the real winners here,” noting that the gifts from the Beacoms and Sanford will be used to create new scholarships, additional cyber programs and new staff and faculty positions at the university. About $10 million of the new funding will underwrite scholarships for DSU students.

DSU’s announcement of the $60 million new funding for cyber and computer science coincided with the opening of the Beacom Institute of Technology, the university’s first new academic building on campus in 30 years. Miles Beacom and Sanford contributed $5 million toward the construction of the facility.

The $11.4-million structure was designed to advance innovative approaches in education with state-of-the-art classrooms, teaching laboratories and collaborative spaces, where faculty in all disciplines may develop and refine new teaching methods.

“The Beacom Institute of Technology was deliberately planned for the use and benefit of all students, regardless of their major,” said DSU president Jose-Marie Griffiths.