The Virginia Cyber Range hosted the sixth annual Virginia Cybersecurity Education Conference in Charlottesville on July 19-20. Educators, administrators, and industry partners joined together to share resources and best practices for Virginia’s cybersecurity education ecosystem. 

“To reap the benefits of an increasingly digital world, it is critically important that we address the cybersecurity skills gap. Cyber education programs in K-12 and college are a key piece of the solution,” said David Raymond, director of the Virginia Cyber Range. Raymond recently was appointed interim vice president for information technology and CIO at Virginia Tech.

Now in its sixth year, the Virginia Cybersecurity Education Conference included a lineup of speakers and workshops that offered attendees ample opportunity to discover new cybersecurity instruction tools, tackle hands-on cybersecurity activities, learn about innovative trends for teaching the material, and explore cyber workforce development and work-based learning efforts. 

YuLin Bingle, dean of the College of Cyber and Cryptology within the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic University, delivered the keynote address.

YuLin Bingle (at right) delivers the keynote address.
YuLin Bingle (at right) delivers the keynote address emphasizing the educator role in developing cybersecurity professionals. Photo by Sean McDonald for Virginia Tech.

“As educators, we have the responsibility of shaping the next generation of defenders and guardians of our digital world,” Bingle said.

“Our focus goes beyond imparting knowledge. We strive to inspire a passion for cybersecurity, instill strong ethical principles, and foster the practical skills needed to combat emerging threats.”

A highlight of the conference was the awards ceremony, where students and educators were recognized for their commitment to cybersecurity education in the commonwealth. 

The Virginia Cyber Range recognized graduating high school students who are taking on careers or additional educational opportunities in cybersecurity. Students were nominated by teachers who detailed their achievements, including cybersecurity-related industry certifications and educational outreach activities.

A group of people holding certificates
Virginia Cyber Signing Day students and teachers are recognized at the Virginia Cybersecurity Education Conference. Photo by Angela Smith for Virginia Tech.

The 2023 Virginia Cybersecurity Educator award honored Henry Coffman, professor of cyber security engineering at George Mason University, for excellence in teaching cybersecurity.

Before joining George Mason, Coffman started the cybersecurity program at Laurel Ridge Community College. Coffman led efforts to secure the initial Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense designation for Laurel Ridge Community College, and it later led the process to become one of the first associate level programs in cybersecurity to earn an ABET accreditation.

Peggy Brouse (at left) and David Raymond (at right) present Henry Coffman (at center) with the 2023 Virginia Cybersecurity Educator award.
Peggy Brouse and David Raymond present Henry Coffman (at center) with the 2023 Virginia Cybersecurity Educator award. Photo by Angela Smith for Virginia Tech.

“These achievements demonstrate Dr. Henry Coffman's exceptional dedication to cybersecurity education, innovative program development, and impactful contributions to the field,” said Peggy Brouse, professor and director of George Mason University's Cyber Security Engineering program. “He is highly deserving of recognition for excellence in cybersecurity education.” 

Participants celebrated exceptional educators and learned from leaders who shared their expertise, experience, and insights. 

Robert Osmond, chief information officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia, welcomed attendees on day two of the conference. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency leader was later joined by others from the public and private sector in a panel discussing the implications of artificial intelligence in cybersecurity education.

(From left) Robert Osmond and David Raymond.
(From left) Robert Osmond and David Raymond welcome attendees at the Virginia Cybersecurity Education Conference. Photo by Angela Smith for Virginia Tech.

Conference sponsorship included support from the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Southwest Virginia, Hume Center for National Security and Technology, as well as Virginia Tech’s Division of Information Technology and several other organizations.

“Their invaluable contributions have enabled us to honor and empower cybersecurity educators, who play a pivotal role in shaping the cyber heroes of tomorrow,” said Raymond. 

Armed with new insights, connections, and a renewed sense of purpose, these educators will return to their classrooms this fall, inspired and better equipped to educate, inspire, and empower the next generation of cyber defenders.

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