Several leaders with the Missouri National Guard met with the leadership of the Warrensburg-based University of Central Missouri (UCM) on Oct. 3 to formalize a unique partnership at the university’s Missouri Innovation Campus, a satellite location in Lee’s Summit, near Kansas City, Missouri.
Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, the Adjutant General of Missouri, and UCM President Charles Ambrose, Ed.D., signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, in order to collaborate on a cybersecurity curriculum, officer education and development of future cyber technicians.
Danner said this is a win-win for the university and the Missouri National Guard.
“First of all, it will allow our citizen soldiers to work with UCM in order to further their cyber education and degrees as we work together to better our soldiers,” Danner said. “I think it is a great thing for the university, too. I believe the Missouri National Guard citizen Soldiers – both Air and Army – bring a lot with them in a student body atmosphere.”
The partnership is also expected to allow the university to tailor their cyber programs to the benefit of military needs.
“This is an opportunity to formalize some work that we’ve been talking about as mission-critical in the state of Missouri for some time,” Ambrose said. “There was a lot of effort made in the spring to really put purpose to an MOU that will allow us to demonstrate not only to the region but to the state, that our work together can cause some great things to happen.”
The Guard leaders were also given a tour of the new facility and were briefed by Anshuman Singh, Ph.D., assistant profession of computer science and coordinator of UCM’s academic cybersecurity program, who said Missouri National Guard has an important role in protecting the state’s infrastructure and assets, but also provide entre into the business community.
“This is a game changer. It helps us get to the next level,” Singh said. “We are very equipped in Warrensburg, but having a facility of this kind in Lee’s Summit helps us connect to businesses as well as provide training to people who are working so that they can better apply their skills in their job. So, this helps us to reach a much wider audience.”
Among the Missouri Guard leaders, on-hand was Col. Denise L. Wilkinson, the Missouri Guard’s director of information management.
She said this relationship and facility should yield greater partnerships between the Missouri National Guard and civilian agencies while benefiting students.
“[They] are providing a progressive student experience where students are eager to learn in the innovative and creative environment that the Missouri Innovation Campus provides,” Wilkinson said. “It allows for creative hands-on learning with the most sophisticated and flexible information technology and cyber tools.”
“This partnership will benefit the future growth of the Missouri National Guard, specifically, in the IT/Cyber community and will provide our Soldiers and Airmen a higher education at a minimal cost.”
Danner said, this program not only benefits the Guardsmen but also private sector businesses with similar cybersecurity needs, as most Guardsmen hold full-time civilian occupations.
UCM is proactively making the path to higher education easier for those serving in the National Guard.
They are implementing accelerated degree paths for Guard students and reducing tuition and fee costs not covered by Missouri’s state tuition assistance program or federal G.I. Bill benefits, Danner said. As a result, Missouri National Guardsmen attending UCM should not have to worry about whether or not they can afford a college education.
The Missouri Innovation Campus opened this fall and is a joint initiative of UCM and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, which places high school and college students under one roof in order to allow students to accelerate completion of their degrees with little or no debt.