The funding comes from American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds that can be used to assist communities recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission approved the grant funds at its Thursday meeting.
“We are grateful to the Kanawha County Commission for their support in helping us to establish the Cybersecurity Innovation Center at West Virginia State University. As West Virginia struggles to emerge from the pandemic, and overcome the economic disparities that were compounded by the pandemic, establishment of a strong and diverse economic foundation for the future is critical,” said WVSU Interim President Ericke Cage. “The creation of this center will contribute to this effort by helping ensure a safe environment for business development in the Kanawha Valley and throughout the state, and by preparing students for high-demand jobs in this rapidly growing field.”
The Kanawha County Commission issued the following joint statement, “We cannot thank Interim President Ericke Cage enough for his leadership of WVSU at this time. President Cage led senior leadership through the process of applying for these funds and initiated this idea for a Cybersecurity Innovation Center. His leadership with WVSU has been outstanding, and he has the full support of the Kanawha County Commission. We were pleased to approve the American Rescue Plan Grant for West Virginia State University at last night’s meeting. WVSU is ‘our’ University, and implementing a CIC is greatly needed at this time as many businesses are seeking assistance daily in how to protect their infrastructure. WVSU will work to ensure that its students have the opportunity to participate in this important program. We were proud to support WVSU, especially on Founders Day and their Day of Giving.”
Establishment of the CIC at WVSU will address economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing academic degrees, community-based training and youth outreach to populations that have been disproportionately affected by health and economic concerns.
WVSU students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic will receive priority consideration for scholarships and paid internships, and graduates with credentials in cybersecurity will be well positioned to obtain and succeed in jobs related to cybersecurity.
In addition, government agencies, small businesses and community organizations will have the support and training to adopt practices and invest in resources that lead to fewer data breaches and increased understanding of and confidence in how to keep their organizations safe; data security will be especially important as many organizations continue to have a significant number of their employees working from home.
And finally, community members and youth from underrepresented communities enrolled in K-12 programming will develop increased awareness of the importance of cybersecurity, tools to keep their personal data safe, and careers available in this field.
Establishment of the CIC will begin immediately with the hiring of a director, investment in the technology infrastructure needed to deliver the programs, and development of curriculum for university students as well as community outreach.
The first cohort of cybersecurity students will enroll in fall 2022, the first community outreach programs will begin during the 2022-2023 academic year, and K-12 youth programs will begin in the summer of 2023.
The funds awarded to WVSU will be used to provide scholarships and paid internships for students, and provide support for outreach programs to county employees, community members, and K-12 youth.