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Batten College of Engineering and Technology Receives $2 Million from NSF

By Keith Pierce

Cybersecurity and STEM for veterans are the focus of two grants, totaling nearly $2 million, awarded to the Batten College of Engineering and Technology at Old Dominion University by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The grants are part of the NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, designed to encourage and enable low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need.

The first project, "Improving the Success of Low-Income Students in a Cybersecurity Program," targets students in the cybersecurity program and will fund up to 18 scholarships over a four-year period while providing students with academic support through mentoring and other program activities.

Chunsheng Xin, professor and principal investigator, will lead a team of researchers that includes Wu He, associate professor in the Department of Information Technology and Decision Sciences; Brian Payne, Old Dominion's vice provost for academic affairs; Hongyi "Michael" Wu, director of the Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research; and Shana Pribesh, associate professor in the Department of Education Foundations & Leadership.

"The success of the project will substantially strengthen ODU's cybersecurity program," said Wu. "It will also attract top students and boost the student retention rate, leading to transformative changes in the state of cybersecurity workforce preparedness."

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who announced the approval of the grant last month, said in a joint statement: "Ensuring students have the support they need to pursue careers in cybersecurity is critical to building our federal workforce and defending the nation's economic and national security. We are thrilled that ODU and the National Science Foundation are partnering to help make that a reality for more students."

The second project, "Pathway to Completion for Pursuing Engineering and Engineering Technology Degrees," aims to address the significant barriers and risk factors to degree completion of veteran students pursuing engineering and engineering technology programs. Tony Dean, associate professor and assistant dean for research, Batten College of Engineering and Technology, leads the project. Co-principal investigators include: Rafael Landaeta, associate professor and associate dean for undergraduate education; Vukica Jovanovic, assistant professor, Department of Engineering Technology; and Kim Sibson, undergraduate chief departmental advisor and programs manager for the Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

The project will fund approximately seventy $5,000 scholarships over five years for veteran students pursuing bachelor's degrees in engineering and engineering technology. According to Dean, the project also includes recruitment of veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill benefits but have not yet completed their STEM degree.

"We're home to one of the world's largest military populations and the largest naval base in the world. It just makes sense to have incentives and mechanisms in place to attract and retain veteran students," said Dean. "Through interventions and targeted support, we will address some of the barriers to degree completion for veteran students in STEM programs."

"Every bright and talented future engineer deserves a path lined with support and these grants are just the beginning," said Stephanie Adams, dean of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology. "By seizing every opportunity to go after funding that is aligned with our goals to provide such a pathway, particularly for underrepresented students, veterans and students from low-income backgrounds, we inspire innovation while helping to meet the increasingly high demand in STEM-related careers."

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