Grant will fund cybersecurity curriculum for language and culture degrees

     The Department of Languages and Cultures at UCCS strives to “develop linguistic and cultural competencies by offering contextualized language education and academic experiences at UCCS, regional and international levels,” according to their mission statement.   

     Fernando Feliu-Moggi, the department chair, explained how a new grant is integrating languages in cybersecurity and why the department should interest students from every field and background. 

     “We received a grant at the beginning of last year [2021], that focused on trying to develop some pilot programs for languages in cybersecurity,” Feliu-Moggi said.  

     The department is not only looking to train students on how to begin developing cybersecurity in other languages, but also to explore and implement a way to teach cybersecurity across cultural boundaries. 

     “The main goal of the original grant was to train [personnel] in the private sector, and to make them understand what cybersecurity means and how to deal with cybersecurity across language barriers,” Feliu-Moggi said. “In an area that the campus is [developing stronger] representation in, we felt that that was a good chance, and we’ve been fortunate to receive it.”   

     The department was named a flagship program in the state in February 2022 with the goal of further implementing other languages in the cybersecurity sector.  

     “The newest element we’ve [begun to] develop that came in our direction is that [our department] has been chosen as the flagship institution for the University of Colorado system for working with the National Security Agency in developing languages for cybersecurity courses,” Feliu-Moggi said.  

     The program arrives in tandem with UCCS seeking to expand cybersecurity and engineering programs on many fronts, including continuing renovations on the Engineering and Applied Sciences Building. 

     “What we bring to campus is a variety of opportunities through our emphasis on language learning, and we are trying to connect people with the global community,” he said.  

     Feliu-Moggi said that the mission of the department is not only to teach language, but also to expose students to other cultures, and he believes these two concepts go hand-in-hand. 

Fernando Feliu-Moggi is chair of the department of languages and cultures. Photo by Meghan Germain. 

     “You cannot know a culture if you don’t speak the language, but you cannot be fluent in the language if you don’t understand the culture, whether it’s learning about Latinx culture in the U.S., or understanding the cultural nuances of a country where Arabic or French are spoken,” he said.  

     The department also seeks to serve local communities that speak other languages and engage in other cultures.  

     “There’s a large population of Spanish speakers in southern Colorado that the university tries to serve. Through some of the other languages we offer, we are also trying to create opportunities for people in the community and for our students to engage, both professionally and individually,” Feliu-Moggi said. “A big part of the process is trying to understand our place in the world and our classes really help people move in those directions.”  

     Besides the Spanish major and minor, the department offers four other minors: American Sign Language, French, German and Japanese. The department also certifies a wide variety of language and culture studies to introduce students to as many cultures and languages as possible while also allowing them to hone in on their focus area. With the grant, they are looking to expand these programs. 

     Senior French instructor Suzanne Cook gave personal insight into the importance of immersing yourself in another language.  

     “Students develop tolerance and empathy, which can be useful, even if they never work with a country that speaks the language. Just here in the U.S., which is a very multicultural society, [people] could be better. So to understand where someone’s coming from, you do this times ten in the language classes,” she said.  

     The department strives to keep classes small and personal to maximize learning potential and immersion, according to Cook.  

     “It’s also a class where students tend to find that they really develop friendships, because we do a lot of small group [activities] where they get to know each other. We have small classes, which is not always the case at universities. So it’s a very intimate and pleasant environment. Students, even if they’re only minoring, tend to really enjoy the time that they’re in the language class,” Cook said.  

     To learn more about the department of languages and cultures, see their UCCS webpage here.