The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) is investing approximately $700,000 in seven experiential learning projects that give students crucial cybersecurity, on-the-job training in areas such as privacy protection and mobile software development. 

“Cybersecurity threats are continuously changing and expanding,” said Luiz DaSilva, CCI executive director. “Through these funded experiential learning projects, students gain hands-on experiences to help them gain a good footing in this ever-expanding field.”

Along with innovation and research, workforce development is a key CCI mission. The initiative encompasses a network of 42 Virginia higher education institutions with more than 350 researchers working at the intersection of security, autonomous systems, and intelligence. Virginia Tech plays a leadership role in CCI.

“We’re pleased to welcome new projects that expand students’ opportunities to gain meaningful work experience, and we're excited to continue funding successful programs that have become benchmarks in CCI’s workforce development portfolio,” said Sarah Hayes, CCI portfolio director.

Two of the funded projects are introducing new approaches or partners to the program:

  • William & Mary is creating a pre-apprentice cybersecurity program that could become a registered apprenticeship program to help fill industry and the Virginia and federal government’s growing cybersecurity workforce needs.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University is partnering with Virginia Union University, a minority-serving institution, to train students to develop secure mobile application software, which is typically used on smartphones and other mobile devices. 

This is the fourth year that CCI has funded experiential learning programs. These projects are led by researchers at:

More about the funded projects

CyberMobile: Secure Mobile (iOS) Development through Experiential Learning

  • Co-principal investigators: Eyuphan Bulut, associate professor, Department of Computer Science, Virginia Commonwealth University; Tunesha Witcher, director, Global and Online learning, Virginia Union University

Expanding Experiential Learning Through the Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program

  • Principal investigator: Chris Carter, director, Virginia Space Grant Consortium

From Experiential Learning to Practice: A Pre-Apprenticeship Program

  • Principal investigator: Stephanie J. Blackmon, associate professor, School of Education, William & Mary
  • Co-principal investigator: Leigh Armistead, president of Peregrine Technical Solutions and adjunct professor at the Old Dominion University School of Cybersecurity 

Enhancing Experiential Learning via Technology Enabled Internships with Mentoring: Student Peer Mentoring

  • Principal investigator: Jeff Pittges, professor, IMPACT Lab, Radford University
  • Co-principal investigators: Deri Draper-Amason, researcher, Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, Old Dominion University; Milos Manic, director, Cybersecurity Center, Virginia Commonwealth University; Bobby Keener, chief executive officer, CivilianCyber

Cyber Start-Ups

  • Principal investigator: Gisele Stolz, senior director of entrepreneurship programs, Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact, George Mason University

Solving the Cyber Workforce & Skills Challenges through Experiential Learning II

  • Principal investigator: Brian K. Ngac, instructor, information systems and operations management, School of Business, George Mason University
  • Co-principal investigator: Nirup Menon, professor, School of Business, George Mason University

Use and Abuse of Personal Information

  • Co-principal investigators: Alan Michaels, director, Spectrum Dominance Division, National Security Institute, Virginia Tech; Madison Boswell, National Security Institute, Virginia Tech

Written by Jinlei (Julie) Lin, a junior and Cybersecurity Communications Intern for the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.

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