College of BILT staff is looking to boost cybersecurity startups in Commonwealth Cyber Initiative

Dr. Diane Murphy with a group of Marymount University Cybersecurity students


The Director of Marymount University’s School of Technology and Innovation and the Associate Dean of the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership and Technology (BILT) have both been appointed to bolster the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) and foster cybersecurity growth and talent in Northern Virginia.

The initiative, which is funding $1 million in experiential learning projects for students across Virginia, is aiming to help build the state’s vital cybersecurity workforce. The seven funded projects also include researchers from George Mason University, Longwood University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and William & Mary.

“By building experiential learning programs in central, coastal, southwestern and northern Virginia, CCI is giving students the hands-on experiences they need to enjoy successful careers in cybersecurity,” said Luiz DaSilva, the CCI’s Executive Director. “These programs are designed to grow to help meet the ever-expanding cybersecurity workforce needs of Virginia and the nation.”

Dr. Diane Murphy, School Director and Professor of Cybersecurity, and Dr. Sarah Spalding, Associate Dean, have joined as co-principal investigators on the project, “Cyber Startups: Expansion of Successful Pilot Program for Novel Experiential Learning.” Alongside principal investigator Gisele Stolz, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs for George Mason’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, as well as fellow co-principal investigator Paula Sorrell of George Mason, the researchers are striving to support startups and small businesses that play an important and growing part of the cybersecurity ecosystem in Virginia.

To accomplish their goals, they are focusing their efforts on two objectives – to offer relevant, hands-on experiential learning opportunities to cybersecurity students from diverse backgrounds, and also provide cybersecurity startups and subject matter experts with the talent they need to scale their businesses. Together, the researchers say the project will diversify the cybersecurity talent pipeline and build a resilient and diverse cybersecurity innovation ecosystem that will help Northern Virginia thrive after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Experiential learning is an important component of our technology program,” Dr. Murphy said. “This grant allows the University to extend internship opportunities to the local cybersecurity start-up community, providing a path for our students to experience working in early start-up companies and hopefully understand what it takes to start their own business in the future.”

“This grant helps support the mission of the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership and Technology by providing our students with the opportunity to apply their IT skills in the workplace, and to foster their creative and entrepreneurial thinking while engaging with the local community,” Spalding added.

Other projects through the CCI address cybersecurity workforce needs in such areas as autonomous systems, cyber biosecurity, electrical power systems, ports and more. To learn more about the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative’s funded projects, click here.