Commonwealth Cyber Initiative funds nearly $1 million in experiential learning projects to benefit Virginia students | VTx | #itsecurity | #infosec


The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) is investing about $900,000 in nine experiential learning projects, covering election security, privacy protection, and digital forensics research areas.

“The newly funded experiential learning projects highlight how widespread and varied cybersecurity concerns have become,” said Luiz DaSilva, CCI executive director. “By giving students hands-on experiences needed for careers in this ever-growing field, we hope to make significant contributions to building a strong cybersecurity workforce for Virginia and the nation.” 

Along with innovation and research, workforce development is a key driver of CCI’s mission. The Virginia Tech-led initiative encompasses a network of 41 Virginia higher education institutes with more than 320 researchers working at the intersection of security, autonomous systems, and intelligence. 

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

Learn more about the funded projects: 

Project: Cyber Startups: CCI 2022 Scalable Pilot Programs for Experiential Learning

  • Principal Investigator: Gisele Stolz, director of entrepreneurship and innovation programs, Office of Innovation and Economic Development, George Mason University

Project: Digital Forensics Experiential Learning Program with Virginia State Police

  • Principal Investigator: Irfan Ahmed, associate professor, computer science, Virginia Commonwealth University

Project: Disinformation as Data Poisoning

  • Principal Investigator: Daniel Runfola, assistant professor, applied sciences, College of William & Mary
  • Co-principal investigator: Anthony Stefanidis, professor, computer science, College of William & Mary

Project: Enhancing Experiential Learning via Technology Enabled Internships with Mentoring: Phase 2 Implementation

  • Principal Investigator: Jeff Pittges, professor, IMPACT Lab, Radford University
  • Co-principal investigators: Deri Draper-Amason, research assistant professor, VMASC, Old Dominion University
  • Bobby Keener, CEO, CivilianCyber
  • Rob Schaper, executive vice president, CivilianCyber

Project: Expanded Scalable Pilot Program for Experiential Learning in CCI Through the Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program

  • Principal Investigator: Mary Sandy, director, Virginia Space Grant Consortium, Old Dominion University

Project: Future Cyber Security Educators: Empowering Cadets as Educators

  • Principal Investigator: Mohamed Azab, assistant professor, computer and information sciences, Virginia Military Institute
  • Co-principal investigators: Denis Gracanin, associate professor, computer science, Virginia Tech
  • Researcher: David Jones, CyDef research scientist, Virginia Military Institute

Project: Preparing Virginia’s Workforce to Secure the Nation’s Election Infrastructure

  • Principal Investigator: Massimiliano Albanese, associate director, Center for Secure Information Systems, George Mason University

Project: Solving the Cyber Workforce & Skills Challenges through Experiential Learning

  • Principal Investigator: Brian Ngac, adjunct professor, instructor, information sciences and technology, George Mason University
  • Co-principal investigator: Nirup Menon, professor, information systems and operations management, George Mason University

Project: Use & Abuse of Personal Information

  • Principal Investigator: Alan Michaels, director, Electronic Systems Lab, Virginia Tech





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