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Muma College of Business researchers receive $300,000 grant to develop new course

A new $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will prepare USF graduate students to take on today's cybersecurity challenges by giving them real-life business cases.

The Muma College of Business Information Systems Decision Sciences Department, in collaboration with with the School of Information and the Criminology Department, received the grant from the NSF in August to create a concluding course for students in the new Master's in Cybersecurity Program. ISDS Professors Grandon Gill and Manish Agrawal are the lead researchers on the grant.

After being awarded a $171,000 grant in 2011 from the NSF, Gill and his colleagues developed the original course for the Management Information Systems degree. The new class format gave MIS seniors a chance to examine case studies from local businesses.

"The idea is to help our students understand what technology looks like when it's applied in the field," Gill said. "We had a successful formula that we used for the undergraduate capstone in MIS, and we wanted to create a similar type of experience for the cybersecurity program."

The case study method, made famous by Harvard Business School, examines the processes behind decisions that companies make, and asks students to analyze those decisions in order to build their business-related critical thinking skills.

In the new graduate course, Gill plans to work with local business to develop about half of the cases, and will develop 12 new cases over the next year and a half. Gill also plans to travel nationally to find the best cybersecurity cases.

Students could take this course starting as early as 2015, Gill said, adding that he plans to develop a course that could be used by multiple tracks in the cybersecurity program. The two-year grant also measures student reaction to the case studies.

Gill, who joined USF in 2001 and is a leader in the case method field, said case-study research is rewarding for him as well as the students because it has direct impact on the businesses he studies.

"This research is guaranteed to end up in the classroom," he said. "It's guaranteed to impact practice. It's impossible to write a case without having some influence on the decision making."

Gill said he plans to hold at least two faculty workshops on facilitating and writing discussion cases, to further increase the pool of cases and build faculty interest at other universities.