UA unveils new intelligence and information operations degree

The University of Arizona will pioneer a bachelor’s degree in intelligence and information operations after receiving $1.5 million in funding from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. 

While other universities offer separate intelligence and information operations degrees, the University of Arizona is the first to offer a joint degree. Undergraduates will be able to pursue the degree starting this fall. 

“This funding allows the University of Arizona to position itself as a national leader in cybersecurity and intelligence gathering education,” UA President Robert C. Robbins said. “Students graduating with degrees in cybersecurity and cyberoperations are in such demand that we have quadrupled the size of the program in just four years. Our students in this program have jobs before they graduate because of the quality of the education they receive and the need for their knowledge and skills throughout industry and government.”

Jason Denno, director of cyber operations at the UA South campus, has first-hand experience as a former intelligence and cyber operator. Because of his involvement in national intelligence, he understands the gravity of the field and the demand for more advanced intelligence analysts. 

“Essentially what’s happening is that around the world, people looked at what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and saw that if they stand toe-to-toe with the US, they’re going to lose,” Denno said, citing his own experience. “So, they change the way they operate, and they’re moving to something called hybrid warfare, where they’re looking to gain the advantage or force their national will or get their strategic goals achieved through activities short of war. So, they’re doing a lot of things in cyberspace and information operations – where they’re trying to sway public opinion – and political terrorist attacks and things like that.” 

Because of the evolution of information operations and foreign intelligence attacks, the United States is looking for ways to bolster its cybersecurity. One of those ways is through educational funding, like the grant it gifted to the University of Arizona.

“There’s no getting away from [cyberspace] anymore. Trying to win the hearts and minds of people is the information warfare that’s going on,” Denno said. “Trying to get a viewpoint accepted by people, whether it’s true or not — how you do the intelligence in there, how you understand what the goals and motivations of your adversaries are. And then you can take the observable things that you can detect of how they’re trying to achieve those goals now, which is much more complicated. So you have to bring those things together to be able to understand your adversary and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.”

The military and law enforcement have a high demand for intelligence operators, as Denno noted, but there are many other career paths for this degree, as well. Corporations utilize intelligence analysts for business operations, market intelligence, competitive analysis, and more. 

The Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security have intelligence divisions as well, according to Denno.  

The additional funding creates more opportunities for hands-on work and immersive study abroad programs, through which students can experience real life applications. This involvement prepares students for internships and careers in lucrative fields in impactful industries. 

“Believe it or not, this is everything from working in a government office all the way to corporate world,” Denno said. “Every single major corporation has intelligence people at this point.”

Ben Norman

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