NSA and UH Mānoa: Partnering to Produce the Talent and Tools for Tomorrow

FT. MEADE, MD (STL.News) – Inside the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s (UH Mānoa) Laboratory for Advanced Visualization & Applications (LAVA), a graduate student is collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) to develop a futuristic tool that may one day help protect the Nation.

Over the past 12 years, NSA and UH Mānoa have partnered to work on hard mission problems and educate the workforce of the future both in language and cybersecurity.

“We view our relationship with UH Mānoa as critical to developing the talent necessary to address the national security challenges of the future,” said Captain Kurtis A. Mole, Commander of NSA in Hawai’i.  “In addition to helping military and civilian employees improve their language skills, UH Mānoa is collaborating with us on cutting edge research, and they are training the next generation of cybersecurity experts.”

To celebrate the partnership, NSA has named UH Mānoa as a featured school and will be highlighting the collaboration on NSA.gov, IntelligenceCareers.gov, and on social media beginning 4 September 2019.

“The University of Hawaiʻi is very honored to have been selected by NSA as a featured school,” said UH System President David Lassner.  “We have developed an exceptionally strong partnership with NSA that is helping students at every level from K-12 to higher education develop interests and skills in cybersecurity.  This not only prepares Hawai’i students for great jobs with NSA, one of our major employers, but also helps strengthen Hawaiʻi’s overall cybersecurity across the public and private sectors.”

The partnership began in 2007 when UH Mānoa started offering NSA employees – particularly military members – specialized courses in Chinese and eventually Korean.  The intensive six week courses improve skills in language and culture, and can yield up to 16 credits toward a college degree.

UH Mānoa became a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research in 2014, and has been engaging in joint research projects with NSA since then.  In the most recent project at LAVA, the graduate student is developing sophisticated tools to identify, organize and synthesize large amounts of data and apply visualization techniques to help researchers in government and academia understand the results.

“In LAVA, we have partnered to unlock the potential of having humans interface with data directly in real time,” said Robert Runser, a technical director at NSA.

UH Mānoa is also one of 16 NSA hiring & recruitment Campus Ambassador Program schools, and with more than 50 percent of the student body of Asian or Pacific Island descent, contributes to the diversity of the workforce.  NSA also has a visiting professor teaching and developing curriculum at UH Mānoa to help meet the future needs of the Agency and the Nation.

“This is both an art and a science,” said the visiting professor, Mark Nelson.  “My job is to teach them the tools and give them the confidence to get in the game for themselves.”  Nelson, who is a recent hire himself, calls NSA “world class” when it comes to cybersecurity.

UH Mānoa is the fourth university to be named an NSA Featured School.  The series highlights schools designated as CAEs that have a depth and breadth of engagement with the Agency.  To learn more about the Featured School Series and schools previously highlighted, visit NSA.gov.