Welcome to the future: Brookdale cuts ribbon on cybercenter

For Brookdale Community College, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was more than just another new building on its sprawling campus — it was a symbol of a next generation of learning at one of the state’s leading community colleges.

When Brookdale officials cut the ribbon on the $2.5 million Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity Education in late January, they marked a significant milestone in Brookdale’s commitment to advancing knowledge and expertise in the dynamic new field.

That’s how Brookdale President David Stout saw it.

“The center is poised to meet the escalating demand for the cybersecurity professional,” he said. “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 7,591-square-foot center 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. 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 officials feel the 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.

Stout thanked state and federal officials.

“We requested $439,000 in congressional community project funding; Congressman Chris Smith went to bat for us,” he said. “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, Smith (R-4th Dist.) 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,” he said.

Monmouth County Commissioner Director and Brookdale Liaison Thomas Arnone agreed. He expressed full support for projects like this when presented to the commissioners. He emphasized the community college’s consecutive No. 1 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 for its impactful contributions to young adults and increasing employment opportunities.

Professor Michael Qaissaunee, chairman of the Engineering and Technology Department and the lead for the center, has one big wish.

“My vision was for Brookdale to become the destination place for cybersecurity,” he said. “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.”

Including some who are not Brookdale students.

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

“The school also is collaborating with Rider University and the County College of Morris to create a virtual lab — and collaborating with companies to organize sessions on various job opportunities.”