Virginia Tech has received a $2.8 million grant from the Department of Defense to continue developing the Department of Defense (DoD) Senior Military College Cyber Institute (SMC2I), in its second year at Virginia Tech. 

“The National Security Agency is excited to partner with Norwich, the Citadel, University of North Georgia, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, and Virginia Military Institute in the DoD Cyber Institute pilot program,” said Diane Janosek, the commandant of NSA’s National Cryptologic School, which houses the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Program. “The multi-disciplinary programs created by these six Senior Military Colleges will build crucial leadership skills as well as critical cybersecurity competencies for the cybersecurity professionals who will serve the nation as DoD civilians or as military professionals. This innovative pilot is a key element in expanding the pool of eligible and certified cyber experts who will protect and defend the nation’s national security posture.”

This grant builds upon the $1.5 million grant awarded in January 2021 that aims to prepare civilians to work in the DoD cybersecurity workforce and related professional roles. 

The SMC2I is aimed at equipping undergraduate students with skills and experience necessary to work in the DoD cyber workforce, simultaneously addressing the Commonwealth of Virginia’s shortage of qualified cyber professionals. 

The grant will be allocated toward two efforts: supporting scholarships for undergraduate students interested in careers focused on cybersecurity and critical foreign languages and supporting experiential learning opportunities within the National Security Institute, the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology, and other Virginia Tech academic departments, including computer science, electrical and computer engineering, math, statistics, and the Pamplin College of Business.

Laura Freeman, principal investigator of the grant and the director of the National Security Institute’s Intelligent Systems Division, who collaborates with co-principal investigators for the grant: Ehren Hill, Hume Center’s associate director for Education and Outreach, Joseph Simpson in the Pamplin College of Business, and Stephanie Travis, research faculty in the Intelligent Systems Division.

New leadership 

Travis was appointed as the director of the Senior Military College Cyber Institute in June 2021 with her first charge: create a three-year cohort model to develop the cyber skills of students. 

“Our country needs amazing new federal civilians in the cyber workforce and Virginia Tech has amazing students to fill those roles,” said Travis. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to leverage the expertise of the five other Senior Military Colleges and provide a more robust cyber education to our students.” 

Travis, who spent 10 years in the United States Air Force, created more internship opportunities for students by leveraging existing and forging new relationships across defense organizations. 

“I am most looking forward to having the opportunity to mentor such motivated students and to expose them to the amazing opportunities they have in their futures,” Travis said. “I am inspired that they’re truly excited to serve our country in their own ways.” 

The Senior Military College Cyber Institute started with 10 students in the fellowship this past fall. Travis said the goal is to add 10 new fellowship students each year moving forward. 

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