Individual Nominee

Faisal Kaleem
Professor, Metropolitan State University

MN Cyber is Minnesota’s most cutting edge, military-grade cybersecurity training institute and has two primary components. Its academic arm teaches students technical, analysis and investigation skills to receive U.S. Department of Defense-approved certifications in system administration, networking or cybersecurity. The second component is a cyber range, a network simulator in which students can tackle real-world threat scenarios and even try to repel attacks staged by instructors. The cyber range is the only one of its kind in MN. It is rare to see such a resource anywhere in the academic realm.

Faisal has played a role in getting Metropolitan State selected as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. MN Cyber has already graduated over 70 students preparing them for a future cybersecurity career in its first year of existence. Through Faisal’s work, Metropolitan State has become a leader in the state and national cybersecurity realm.

Faisal’s MN Cyber vision includes sharing the technology, curriculum, and real-time, real-world information with every Minnesota State college and university interested in offering this type of education and front-lines training to their students. Currently, 10 other schools have indicated interest in connecting their curriculum with MN Cyber.

Future goals of MN Cyber include creating a cyber residency program where senior students would participate in a 24/7 security operations center hosted on-site at Metropolitan University. This would give students real-world experience to list on their resumes – a leg up on other students they will be competing against in the job market upon graduation. It will also provide a valuable service to small businesses around the Twin Cities. MN Cyber will also be offering Pathways, a National Science Foundation-funded curriculum designed for kindergarten through 12-grade students to start and nurture them down the path to computer science and cybersecurity careers.

To make it all happen, Faisal reached out to—and succeeded in attracting—the chief information security officers (CISO) at 22 major Minnesota businesses including CHS, Deluxe, Ecolab, General Mills, Medtronic, XcelEnergy, BestBuy, Target, 3M, UnitedHealth Group and U.S. Bank, to serve on MN Cyber’s advisory board. There is a significant presence from Fortune 500 industry decision-makers letting Faisal and MN Cyber know what they need from the workforce of tomorrow.

“Faisal possesses a vision for cybersecurity education and training that is in my view unique. His work establishing the MN Cyber Institute as a focal point for collaboration between industry and academics aimed at workforce development, educational pathways from K-12 to graduate school, and bringing advanced training capabilities to the State is extraordinary,” says Dr. Kyle Swanson, dean of the College of Sciences at Metropolitan State. “The fact that he has been able to accomplish this in a single year only adds to the enormity of the accomplishment.”

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Steering Committee

Alex Hepp, City of Hopkins
Bill Bleckwehl, Cisco
Dave Andrews, DEED
Jay Wyant, Minnesota IT Services
Jim Hall, Ramsey County
Matt Bailey, IBM
Melissa Reeder, League of Minnesota Cities
Nathan Beran, City of New Ulm
Sue Wallace, IT Futures Foundation
Lisa Meredith, Minnesota Counties Computer Cooperative
Justin Kaufman, Minnesota IT Services
Renee Heinbuch, Washington County/MNCITLA
Jerine Rosato, Ramsey County
David Berthiaume, Minnesota IT Services
Cory Tramm, Sourcewell Tech 

Content Committee

Tomas Alvarez, Federal Reserve
Tom Ammons, MN.IT – Central
Dave Andrews, MN State Services for the Blind
Susan Bousquet, MN.IT – DOT
Robert Granvin, Metro State
Alex Hepp, City of Hopkins
Shawntan Howell, Ramsey County
Jenny Johnson, Metropolitan Council
Millicent Kasal, MN.IT – Central
Ping Li, MN.IT – MMB
Chibuzor Nnaji, MN.IT – DHS
Mehrdad Shabestari, MN.IT – Central