Kennesaw State, UT program to offer research experience to ROTC students

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 16, 2020

Jennifer Priestley
Jennifer Priestley

Kennesaw State University and the University of Tennessee (UT), in collaboration with the Office of Naval Research, will launch a unique program training a cohort of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students at each institution in cybersecurity, data analytics and advance manufacturing.

The new offering, “Cybersecurity, data analytics, and advanced manufacturing for the modern soldier: An integrated ROTC research and training program,” is made possible by a grant through the Office of Naval Research and will help officer candidates get a more in-depth approach to and experience with STEM-related fields. While the funding is coming from the Navy, the program is open to ROTC students of all military branches, with the goal of eventually having 15 students at each institution taking part in the program.

Kennesaw State will offer training and education in the methodology and data science related to cybersecurity and research, while at UT, the focus will be on cybersecurity as it relates to advanced manufacturing and advanced materials.

Students at each university will have the chance to work remotely on coursework at the other partner institution. Jennifer Priestley, executive director of the Analytics and Data Science Institute, and Mike Whitman, executive director of the Institute for Cybersecurity Workforce Development, will serve as the leads at Kennesaw State. Professor Tony Schmitz and assistant professor Brett Compton will serve as the lead at UT.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for two of our region’s leading cybersecurity and data science institutions to join together in an effort that not only generates a more well-rounded ROTC graduate, but also impacts our nation’s security and that of our manufacturing industry,” Priestley said. “I very much look forward to our future collaborations and successes to be had.”

Once classes begin, initial work and training will be completed online at the student’s own pacing. Follow-up time in the lab will give them a better understanding of material properties and designs, setting them up for future design and modelling opportunities. Students will also be able to tour the state-of-the-art facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility as part of the program.

“We anticipate this will increase their effectiveness as they proceed in their military careers,” Schmitz said.

Priestley and Schmitz had previously collaborated on a separate proposal, and were connected after UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor's Chair of Advanced Manufacturing Professor Suresh Babu had visited Priestley at Kennesaw State.

UT’s Air Force ROTC Commander Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Castillo said the advantages of the program were clear.

“Within the current and expected national security environment, I believe all future officers—regardless of specific specialties—can benefit from an increased understanding of cyber, data analytics, and advanced manufacturing, all areas included in this program,” said Castillo. “This is an incredible opportunity to receive structured training, practical hands-on experience and to participate in research on real issues that impact our national defense and war-fighting capabilities. I highly recommend this program to those cadets able to add this on top of their academic progression and believe the experience will provide a foundation from which they will rely upon in the future.”

– Travis Highfield

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit