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The initial purpose of the project is to create a minor in cybersecurity that will consist of six courses and be available to students starting in the fall semester of 2021. The grant funding will be used to add one full-time faculty member, new computer equipment and software, and highly qualified adjunct faculty, if needed. The project is directed by Dr. Don Topliff, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Erdoğan Doğdu, chair of the Department of Computer Science.

Dr. Erdoğan Doğdu Dr. Erdoğan Doğdu“We are thrilled to have this generous grant from the NSA,” Doğdu said. “It is a great opportunity for the Computer Science Department and ASU to grow and enhance our abilities in teaching and research in the cybersecurity area. Cybersecurity is a trendy and growing field, and the NSA grant will allow us to expand our current program offerings to new levels. Our lab infrastructure will also be upgraded with this grant. Our students will have the opportunity to be better educated and equipped in the field, and later join the workforce in the ever-growing cybersecurity area. Our ultimate goal is to be a leading center of excellence in our region for producing qualified cybersecurity professionals and promoting higher education and research in cybersecurity.”

ASU currently offers a four-course Certificate in Cybersecurity Technologies, and all the cybersecurity classes are filled to capacity each semester. The new faculty and equipment funded by the NSA grant will allow the department to add the additional new courses students will need to complete an official minor in cybersecurity.

Adding new cybersecurity courses and modifying the existing courses to meet criteria set forth by the NSA will also allow ASU to apply to become a Department of Homeland Security/NSA National Center for Academic Excellence.

Dr. Don Topliff Dr. Don Topliff“Cybersecurity is perhaps the most important topic in our lives today,” Topliff said. “This grant will allow us to expand our ability to train students for the millions of job openings at this moment. Once we have achieved the designation of a DHS/NSA Center of Academic Excellence, the opportunities for our faculty and students to compete for grants and jobs will grow exponentially.”

The ASU Cybersecurity Capacity Building Project will also establish two volunteer advisory committees, one external and one internal. The external committee will be composed of community members with interest/expertise in cybersecurity. The internal committee will have faculty from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Security Studies and Department of Computer Science.

Adding the new cybersecurity minor is also the first step toward ASU potentially adding bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cybersecurity in the future.

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Last spring, the world was stunned as COVID-19 began its insidious journey. When Angelo State made the decision to move all classes online after extending spring break for a week, the disease was affecting other areas of the nation and state far more extensively.

Becky BrackinBecky BrackinUnfortunately, that is no longer true, and the summer months have proven that safety measures must be taken more seriously. However, these months have allowed us to gather information and data. We now know more about the disease and how to minimize its spread.

Working with our healthcare partner, Shannon Health, and drawing upon the vast expertise available through our sister institutions and leadership within the Texas Tech University System, our campus leadership decided to open campus again this fall.

We entered into this decision with a commitment to do everything possible to keep our students, faculty and staff safe and deliver an exceptional educational experience. We did this highly aware of the hours of discussion and careful planning ahead. We also knew flexibility would be key as the situation can shift almost instantly.

This will not be a traditional fall semester.

Students will still move into our residence halls and attend classes, but we have been communicating with faculty, staff and students for weeks now about the safeguards we have put into place. These safeguards will limit some of the activities that are hallmarks of a traditional fall semester. Through videos, town hall meetings, emails, social media and more, we have introduced the steps we are taking to minimize the risk for the Ram Family. 

No 1: Face Coverings

The Texas Tech University System and Angelo State University adopted a policy that appropriate face coverings are required to be worn by everyone everywhere on campus (there are a few exceptions). This applies to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.

No. 2: Wellness Screening

Angelo State’s information technology team very quickly developed a digital wellness screening that can be completed by smartphone or another device. Students, faculty, staff and visitors must take the screening before they arrive on campus or leave their residence halls and show a digital “badge” in certain areas across campus. If a member of the Ram Fam indicates a symptom of COVID-19 on the wellness screening, they will be referred to Shannon on Demand for evaluation of their health and the need for further testing. Visitors would be instructed to seek advice from a medical professional before coming to campus.

As well, the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Texas Military Department are offering free voluntary testing for ASU employees and students Aug. 10-14.

No. 3: Sanitization

The risk management and facilities management staff have worked closely with our janitorial service provider, ABM, to augment regular cleaning to include disinfection of common areas throughout the campus with products recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. The university has also purchased high capacity commercial sprayers for disinfection of designated high-use areas.

No. 4: Course Delivery

We are offering courses in several formats this semester. Courses may be delivered all-online, in a hybrid format (face-to-face and online), or in a flipped format. Professors across campus are working with new technology to ensure students participating virtually can see materials presented and hear the classroom discussion. If a student does become ill, professors are prepared to be flexible and help them complete their courses.

No. 5: Space Planning

All areas of Angelo State, from dining to classrooms, are reducing capacity to accomplish social distancing. Desks have been removed from classrooms or restricted from use. Equipment in the Ben Kelly Center for Human Performance will likewise be moved or labeled. Dining will be available for pickup or served by Chartwells staff rather than the traditional self-serve options. Seating areas will be arranged to provide proper distance. Other areas of campus, such as labs, have been outfitted with plexiglass panels to separate students.

No. 6: Event Policy

The Texas Tech University System and its component institutions have established an event policy that limits attendance to 10 or fewer individuals, requires that face coverings are worn and six feet of social distance is maintained. It prohibits food and drink at events and includes other safety measures. The term “event” does not include academic, employment or athletics gatherings. The policy allows for a few exceptions if approved by university administration.

No. 7: Procedure if a student tests positive for COVID-19

During the virtual town hall meetings we have hosted, attendees have asked great questions. One of the most significant is: what happens if a student at ASU tests positive for COVID-19? In this case, we have a thorough response plan that includes isolation and contact tracing. Our student affairs staff will monitor the student’s well-being and ensure meals, toiletries and other needs are provided throughout the process. Faculty members are prepared to work with students who become ill to help them complete their classwork. Similar plans are in place for faculty or staff who might become ill with COVID-19.

Safety is a Shared Responsibility

For those students who prefer face-to-face classes and the campus experience, we are committed to safety. Our efforts will only be successful if everyone – students, faculty, staff and visitors – share the responsibility for safety and integrity by following the policies and procedures set forth.

As always, we are committed to providing an excellent educational experience for all – whether online or in person. In 1928 this community was determined to offer a top-notch higher education in West Texas, and through almost 100 years of challenges and triumphs, we are just as committed to honoring that determination.

These are highlights of a complex plan that must allow for flexibility, should circumstances change. To learn more about Angelo State University’s commitment to a safe return to campus, go to angelo.edu/commitment.

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Only 28 individuals nationwide were selected for the highly competitive program that recruits recent college graduates and career changers with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math – the STEM fields – and prepares them specifically to teach in high-need Pennsylvania secondary schools.

Baxter Krug, Class of 2020Baxter Krug, Class of 2020Krug and the other Fellows will each receive $32,000 to complete a specially designed, cutting-edge master’s degree program based on a year-long classroom experience, including the current remote and virtual learning arrangements. Krug is one of 10 Fellows who recently began their programs at West Chester University. The rest of the Fellows started their programs at Duquesne University or University of Pennsylvania.

In return, Fellows commit to teach for three years in high-need Pennsylvania schools. Throughout the three-year commitment as a teacher of record at a public school, Fellows receive ongoing support and mentoring.

“The WW Teaching Fellowship connects passionate STEM experts with the students who need them the most,” said WW Foundation President Rajiv Vinnakota. “Not only will the program prepare each Fellow to be an excellent educator, it will also give them the practice, support and network of peers needed to succeed throughout their careers in the classroom. And for our university partners, the Fellowship supports their continued efforts to recruit, prepare, and mentor STEM teachers in the high-need schools that need them most.”

At ASU, Krug was heavily involved in chemistry research, which he presented at Great Plains Honors Council, National Collegiate Honors Council and American Chemical Society (ACS) conferences. He was a member of ASU’s award-winning student chapter of ACS and represented ASU at the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 25th Conference of Parties in Santiago, Chile. He was also a presenter on ASU’s Ram Radio internet radio station, was inducted into the Alpha Chi national honor society, and graduated magna cum laude.

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This marks the third straight year ASU has earned the national “College of Distinction” designation, and ASU is one of only six Texas public universities out of 19 total Texas institutions on the 2020-21 list.

Additionally, ASU has been named a “Texas College of Distinction” and a “Public College of Distinction” – and has received specific recognition for its business, education and nursing programs based on accreditation, breadth of program and a track record for success.

Schools are selected for the various designations for demonstrating excellence in four key areas identified by Colleges of Distinction as the “four distinctions:”

  • Engaged students
  • Great teaching
  • Vibrant community
  • Successful outcomes

Several new areas of distinction have also been added this year, and ASU earned additional recognition as a “Military Support College of Distinction” and an “Equity & Inclusion College of Distinction.”

The Military Support recognition goes to schools that ensure military students are supported through comprehensive education benefits, a committed military and veteran’s affairs team, flexible options, trained faculty, and dedicated campus activities and community support. The Equity & Inclusion recognition goes to schools that understand inclusion is just as important as diversity, ensuring that all students are given equal opportunity to thrive academically, personally and professionally.

The primary goal of Colleges of Distinction is to “connect individual students to information that empowers them to make confident choices from among the best colleges in our nation.”

To that end, an in-depth profile of ASU will be published in the 2020-21 Colleges of Distinction guidebook and is already posted on the CollegesOfDistinction.com website, which provides the information to college-bound students, their parents and high school counselors without a subscription fee.

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The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents today (July 24) announced the selection of Lieutenant General Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., U.S. Air Force, retired, as the sole finalist for the presidency of Angelo State University.

The decision was unanimously approved at the conclusion of a special called board meeting. State law requires 21 days must pass before final action can be taken on employment once a sole finalist has been named. Hawkins’ start date as president is expected to be Aug. 14.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr.Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr.“I’m honored and humbled to serve as the next president of Angelo State University,” Hawkins said. “Decades ago, I was a student here, and those years formed the foundation of my professional career and my life. Although not born here, I spent my formative years in this community. Maria and I have a deep and abiding commitment to Angelo State and San Angelo.

“I look forward to working with the Board of Regents, Chancellor Tedd Mitchell, our esteemed faculty and staff, university administration, alumni, donors, and our community to guiding this university to greater heights, and to providing Angelo State students with a world-class education and unmatched professional development opportunities.”

Hawkins will become the 11th president in the 92-year history of the institution and the first Black president of ASU.

Chancellor Tedd L. MitchellChancellor Tedd L. Mitchell“I’d like to congratulate Ronnie on being selected as the sole finalist to become our next president at Angelo State University,” said Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. “Ronnie is a leader of the highest integrity and character who has a proven record of success, visionary leadership and collaboration. I am excited to welcome him and his wife Maria back to their alma mater, and I look forward to great things for ASU in the years ahead.”

More than 100 applications were considered for this role in a nationwide search launched in May. The search committee reviewed nominations and applications and interviewed candidates before presenting top semi-finalists for consideration to the chancellor and board. The Board of Regents voted to select Hawkins as the sole finalist after a recommendation was made from Chancellor Mitchell.

Regent Mickey LongRegent Mickey Long“We received overwhelming interest for the opportunity to guide Angelo State University forward into its next chapter,” said TTU System Regent and ASU Presidential Search Committee Chairman Mickey L. Long. “I would like to thank our search committee for the time, effort, and extensive and thorough process that was implemented to find our next leader.

“Ronnie and his family are respected members of the San Angelo community, and it is my privilege to welcome him back to Angelo State University in this important leadership role. He is committed to Angelo State’s mission, values and traditions to prepare and graduate students to be responsible citizens and to have productive careers. As an alumnus, this is truly a homecoming that will make the Ram Family proud.”

A graduate of San Angelo Central High School, Hawkins attended ASU on a track and field scholarship earning a Bachelor of Business Administration with a degree in computer science in 1977. A distinguished graduate, Hawkins received the Distinguished ROTC Alumnus honor in 2001-02, and is the highest-ranking graduate of the ASU ROTC program.

Over his career, Hawkins has earned three master’s degrees, including a Master of Science in human resources management and services from Abilene Christian University, a Master of Science in military national resource strategy and policy from National Defense University and a Master of Divinity in Christian studies from Liberty University. He also completed a program for senior managers in government at Harvard University.

Hawkins’ 37-year tenure in the U.S. Air Force culminated in his appointment as the director of the Defense Information Systems Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland, where he led a $10.2 billion global organization of 14,000 military and civilian personnel who provided direct support to the U.S. President, Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commanders, Department of Defense components and other mission partners.

He has been honored with numerous professional and military awards, including three times recognized as a distinguished graduate, the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award, “The Federal 100” by Federal Computer Weekly, “The North American Technology Leadership Award” by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Rocky Mountain Chapter, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.

Following his military career, Hawkins joined the ASU faculty in 2016-17 as a visiting adjunct instructor where he developed course curriculum and taught a leadership development course during a pair of spring semesters. He anticipates making a return to the classroom once his presidential tenure is underway.

In addition, Hawkins served as president and CEO of the Hawkins Group, a digital, information technology and cybersecurity services firm based in San Angelo. Hawkins and his wife, San Angelo native Maria Hawkins—also attended ASU and Ronnie’s high school sweetheart—were named co-Citizens of the Year by the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce in 2019. The couple has been married for 46 years. Ronnie and Maria have two sons, Col. Ronnie Hawkins III, Lt. Col. Joshua Hawkins, and a daughter, Christine Honesty.

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