FAMU Receives $5M Hewlett Foundation Grant To Establish Cyber Policy Institute

March 29, 2023
Lee Hall
FAMU Receives $5M Hewlett Foundation Grant To Establish Cyber Policy Institute

Florida A&M University (FAMU) is among four schools, each receiving $5 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for the creation of a Cyber Policy Institute that will allow the University to develop scholars to address cyber policy issues especially for underrepresented communities.

FAMU, along with Spelman College, is one of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to receive the funding to support the launch and expansion of interdisciplinary cyber policy programs. Florida International University in Miami, a Hispanic-serving institution, and Turtle Mountain Community College, a tribal college in Belcourt, North Dakota, are the other two grant recipients, the Hewlett Foundation announced Wednesday.

“We are proud to partner with the Hewlett Foundation to create the Cyber Policy Institute, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the University’s College of Science and Technology (CST) and the College of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities (CSSAH),” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “This partnership will help students develop expertise and, ultimately, earn a master’s degree in cyber policy. Let me congratulate and thank the Hewlett team, and our team, for bringing this opportunity to FAMU. I am excited that through this initiative, we will produce cyber policy experts well-equipped to address the complex interactions of people, communities, and cyber policy.”

Launched in early 2014, the 10-year, $150 million Cyber Initiative’s goal has been to cultivate a field of institutions with experts capable of addressing society’s most pressing cyber challenges, from encryption policy to combating ransomware to establishing norms governing conflict between nations in cyberspace, among others. 

“Because of the pivotal role digital technology plays in our society, it is critical that the cybersecurity field that protects computer networks and individual users can draw on the experience and expertise of people from diverse backgrounds – particularly those that have historically been underrepresented and excluded,” Eli Sugarman, who leads the Cyber Initiative for the Hewlett Foundation, said in a statement. “The work these institutions will do represents a key piece of the puzzle in the development of a more diverse cyber policy field that can keep us all safer in cyberspace.”

As part of the initiative, Stanford University is a mentor for the FAMU group, led by an interdisciplinary team from CST and CSSAH. The partnership aims to integrate science-based and market-oriented domains of knowledge within the university to help students develop expertise in cyber policy and, ultimately, earn a master’s degree in cyber policy,  the announcement stated.

The FAMU Cyber Policy Institute (Cyπ) addresses challenges and opportunities presented by the development of cyber-enabled disciplines where market science fuses with the domain, their impact on society and human evolvement while creating a talent pipeline that produces experts with the necessary mix of non-technical and technical skills and knowledge to staff our institutions- academia, government and corporate, said Principal Investigator, FAMU CST Dean Richard Alo, Ph.D.

CSSAH Dean Valencia Matthews, Ph.D., Richard A. Long, Ph.D., CST associate dean for Research & Graduate Programs, and Kyle Eidahl, Ph.D., professor of social sciences, are co-principal investigators for the initiative.

“The institute will engage faculty and graduate student fellows and broaden collaboration between non-STEM and STEM disciplines,” Alo explained.

With the spectacular and fast-paced technological innovation, particularly within social media, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Data Sciences, there has been a corresponding growth in the cyber-attack threat, Alo added.

“There have been great strides in how we respond to the cyber threat from a technological perspective, but cyber issues cannot be addressed from a purely technological perspective,” Alo said. “Data Science and its tools have significantly influenced the workforce where our professions are rapidly being digitalized and demand the fusion of market science – psychology, policy, management, ethics, etc. There is a pressing need for experts in cyber/technology policy. Developing policies to address cyber/technology issues, whether in government or the corporate environment, significantly lags behind technological advances.”