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$500,000 NSF Grant Aims to Strengthen Cybersecurity Foundation at ODU

Noell Saunders

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Old Dominion University a $500,000 grant to address cybersecurity workforce shortages through increased educational and training opportunities.

Filling open cybersecurity positions with qualified candidates is a nationwide problem. In the DC/Maryland/Virginia region alone, there are currently over 33,000 open cyber security openings, with more than 17,000 just in Virginia.

Brian Payne, vice provost for Academic Affairs, said the grant will help ODU integrate high impact practices by creating learning communities, new classes, internship opportunities and an e-portfolio for undergraduate students to showcase their work digitally for classes and future employers.

"Part of our efforts include building stronger relationships with employers so that our students will be participating in internships with different companies, businesses and agencies. They will be career ready," Payne said.

A portion of grant funds will go toward developing presentations for incoming freshmen and a new introductory class called Cybersecurity, Technology, and Society. The interdisciplinary class will be part of a list of technology requirements that students can pick from starting next fall. The course will have components from six areas including information technology, computer science, philosophy, business, criminal justice and engineering.

"It's not just the technology that our students need to know for these jobs. In fact, employers will say that's a small component of it," Payne said. "It's about problem solving, communication and other soft skills. Technology will be different five years from now and it's about the ability to adapt and learn. That's what we are trying to develop in our students."

The grant will also help build stronger relationships with Northern Virginia Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College and Tidewater Community College. This is part of three cybersecurity education pathway agreements that were recently approved to allow community college students graduating with an associate's degree in Information Systems Technology and relevant cybersecurity coursework to transfer to Old Dominion.

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