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Old Dominion wins U.S. Department of Commerce Grant to Spearhead Hampton Roads Cybersecurity Education Effort

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Old Dominion University is the lead institution for one of five projects selected nationally by a U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) program to help address the nation's shortage of skilled cybersecurity employees.

The Hampton Roads Cybersecurity Education, Workforce, and Economic Development Alliance, led by Old Dominion's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, received a nearly $200,000 grant from NIST's National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.

The goal of the program is to build alliances and partnerships to stimulate cybersecurity education and workforce development.

For its project, Old Dominion will coordinate the Hampton Roads Cybersecurity Education, Workforce and Economic Development Alliance. It will include two community colleges, two large public school districts, two universities, a large local private employer, a major federal research lab and several small businesses focused on promoting cybersecurity training and education.

The project also will benefit from the advocacy and support of both the City of Virginia Beach's Economic Development Office and Reinvent HR, a Hampton Roads-based workforce initiative.

Brian Payne, Old Dominion's vice provost for academic affairs, said the award from NIST is recognition of the University's multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity.

"Our Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research is committed to bridging disciplines and connecting our activities to economic and workforce development," he said.

Old Dominion researchers will present details of their efforts at the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education Conference in Kansas City, Missouri., in November.

Payne said ODU has consciously blended coursework with research, bringing together faculty, staff, students and community partners to discuss how to study and teach cybersecurity. The award from NIST reflects recognition of these efforts.

"The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education grants support job-driven training programs designed to fill the many cybersecurity job openings in both the public and private sectors," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. "As part of Commerce's 'Skills for Business' initiative, these grants strengthen regional workforce partnerships that engage employers to close the gap between talent supply and demand in this critically important high-growth field."

A 2015 analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Stanford University's Peninsula Press found that there were more than 209,000 open cybersecurity positions in the United States, and the number of job postings had risen 74 percent in the previous five years.

Old Dominion recognized this critical need in launching its cybersecurity initiative in 2015.The University hired internationally-recognized scholar Hongyi "Michael" Wu as the inaugural Batten Chair of Cybersecurity. Wu has led the creation of the University's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, which brings together the efforts of more than two dozen faculty at Old Dominion University and works toward addressing cybersecurity through a lens that responds to the multifaceted nature of the issues.

Last fall, the University began offering a cybersecurity major in its interdisciplinary studies degree program. That made Old Dominion one of the few institutions in the country addressing cybersecurity with an interdisciplinary approach.

The program draws faculty from electrical and computer engineering, computer sciences, information technology, criminal justice, philosophy, psychology, political science and other academic departments.

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