W&M secures funding through $1M Commonwealth Cyber Initiative for experiential learning opportunities

Business, law and cyber and information security students will consult on real-world cyber risk management and analytics projects for southeast Virginia small and medium enterprises

The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) recently announced $1 million in funding for seven cybersecurity experiential learning projects benefiting students across the Commonwealth of Virginia’s higher education system.

William & Mary researchers will be allocated a portion of those funds to enable students from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, William & Mary Law School – through its Center for Legal & Court Technology – and the Reveley Interdisciplinary Cyber and Information Security Essentials Seminar to perform consultative services for small and medium businesses (SMBs) located in the Southeast region of the commonwealth, in targeted sectors such as the maritime and defense industries.

The initiative, which is sponsored by faculty from the Mason School and W&M Law School, will leverage current student and industry project vehicles as students take an interdisciplinary approach to develop cyber risk management solutions for clients seeking data analytics-driven services.

“We hope to expose students to the business, legal and technical aspects of cyber risk management by working on real-world projects for companies, including the practical challenges faced by these organizations and the valuable skill sets required to solve them,” said Chon Abraham, associate professor of management information systems and principal investigator of the project.

Abraham, along with Iria Giuffrida, visiting faculty for business law; Aaron Koehl, clinical associate professor of business; and Joe Wilck, clinical associate professor of business, will supervise the initiative which is set to kick off this summer as projects are developed with prospective sponsors. The team is targeting the recruitment of 20 students to fill four-person teams which will then spend the 2021-2022 academic year engaging on projects with SMB clients in vulnerable sectors of the commonwealth’s economy.

“Cyber-attacks have increased 400% since the onset of COVID because of the number of personnel working remotely and the increased reliance on Internet-based connectivity," said Giuffrida. "This activity has left small and medium sized businesses, specifically in the maritime and defense industries located in our region, particularly vulnerable. This project will dually serve our students and those organizations as they determine the best risk management solutions to protect those businesses.”

In addition to providing students with real-world consulting experience, the Mason School views this as a valuable opportunity to integrate sponsorship with talent recruitment for internships and full-time employment.

“William & Mary has a long-standing history of working with regional, national and international partners to connect the best student talent with lucrative employment opportunities," said Brett Alpert, associate dean of career services and executive director of the Graduate Career Management Center. "Our hope is, as students become equipped with the skill sets needed by SMBs throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, this will serve as an added opportunity for students to engage with potential employers looking to recruit graduates with cyber-risk analytics and cyber-risk management skills and experience."

In addition to William & Mary, CCI announced researchers from George Mason University, Longwood University, Marymount University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech will receive funding through the $1 million announcement to pursue seven projects related to building the state’s cybersecurity workforce.

For more information about CCI and details regarding this initiative and others, visit https://cyberinitiative.org/cci-news.html.