Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) Awards William & Mary Nearly $200,000 For Two Grants

Two William & Mary interdisciplinary projects, one of which is based in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business and William & Mary Law School, were awarded nearly $200,000 by Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN).

Run by New America, PIT-UN is a consortium of 43 academic institutions committed to building the field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Among its many activities, PIT-UN runs an annual “Network Challenge,” funded through the generous support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, Siegel Family Endowment, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and Raikes Foundation.

On November 2, 2021, New America announced they have awarded 31 grants totaling $3.61 million dollars to 24 unique PIT-UN members, which include the W&M Cybersecurity Awareness Initiative and the W&M Digital Inclusion Initiative.

The W&M Cybersecurity Awareness Initiative is a project designed by Dr. Chon Abraham, Associate Professor in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, and Dr. Iria Giuffrida, Professor of the Practice of Law at William & Mary Law School and Visiting Faculty for Business Law at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business.

The grant will allow William & Mary to leverage educational resources and experiential learning to benefit high school and college students, especially minorities—with an emphasis on minority women—who are underrepresented in the cybersecurity industry.

“To our knowledge, there are no other institutions working on this type of experiential learning in cybersecurity, that rely on partner organization engagement, and that focus on minority women at high school senior or college level,” said Professor Abraham.

“We are fortunate that William & Mary has a strong track record of serving underrepresented populations,” she continued when discussing how recruiting high school students and students from underprivileged backgrounds will be executed.

Commenting on the interdisciplinary aim of this project, Professor Giuffrida noted that “the next generation of cybersecurity professionals is more attuned to ESG [environmental, social, and governance] criteria than mine was. They want to create, to innovate, but with an eye on what is around them. Through these experiential opportunities, we encourage students and the hosting organizations to explore cyber issues from different perspectives: there are technical factors, of course, but also human, commercial, legal, ethical, political, etc.”

Success will be assessed in three ways:

  1. The number of minority students recruited for the experiential opportunities;
  2. Feedback shared by partner organizations on the students' performance; and
  3. Self-reflective review by the students assessing, inter alia, the insight gained on cyber risk assessment, and on understanding methods and indicators for mis/disinformation.

“All of these are valuable qualitative data points that can shape future research,” agreed both professors. In fact, the W&M Cybersecurity Awareness Initiative will continue the efforts of an existing experiential initiative on which Professors Abraham and Giuffrida, alongside Dr. Joseph Wilck, Clinical Associate Professor at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, are currently working and which is, in turn, funded by the Coastal Node of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.
Professors Abraham and Giuffrida will be joined in these efforts by the Center for Legal & Courtroom Technology as well as William & Mary’s Chief Information Officer, Edward Aractingi, who is a critical partner responsible for bringing together diverse groups to identify and implement strategic university-wide IT solutions for teaching, learning, research and operations.

The second successful project, the W&M Digital Inclusion Initiative, is led by Dr. Carrie B. Dolan, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences, and Dr. Philip Roessler, Associate Chair, Margaret Hamilton Associate Professor of Government, both in Arts & Sciences. Their project will align a variety of emergent activities around digital inclusion, with a specific focus in health, governance and finance, encouraging multidisciplinary research and dialogue.

William & Mary was welcomed to join PIT-UN in May 2021, confirming University President Katherine Rowe’s and Provost Peggy Agouris’s commitment to expanding William & Mary STEM footprint as well as cross-institutional collaborations and external interdisciplinary partnerships aimed at serving the community and improving the public good.

In addition to William & Mary, the other 23 universities that have been awarded grants this year include:

  • Arizona State University Foundation for a New American University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • City University of New York
  • Cleveland State University Foundation
  • Georgia State University Research Foundation
  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Howard University
  • Miami Dade College
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • San Jose State University
  • Stanford University
  • The George Washington University
  • The Ohio State University
  • The University of California, Santa Cruz
  • The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
  • The University of the South
  • Trustees of Boston University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Washington

“With nearly $12 million in grants awarded since the Challenge’s inception, this year’s crop of grantees continue to reaffirm our commitment to a sociotechnical education that puts humans at the center,” said Andreen Soley, PIT-UN’s Director. “These 31 projects prioritize connecting in class learning with their real world applications to ensure the safety and security of some of our most vulnerable communities. We hope they serve as models and proofs of concepts for other universities and colleges.”

A full description of projects funded

About the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN)

The Public Interest Technology University Network is a partnership of colleges and universities convened by New America, the Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. The network and challenge grants are funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, with support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, The Raikes Foundation, Schmidt Futures and The Siegel Family Endowment. PIT-UN is dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology through curriculum development, faculty research opportunities, and experiential learning programs, in order to inspire a new generation of civic-minded technologists and policy leaders.