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

from left Richard A. Aló, Ph.D. Prof, Dean, and FAMU’s College of Social Sciences Arts and Humanities Valencia Matthews Ph.D., Dean, and Kyle Eidahl Ph.D. Professor of History. (Photo Credit: Glenn Beil/FAMU Office of Communications)
Professor Richard Long, Ph.D., Associate Dean (Photo Credit: Glenn Beil/FAMU Office of Communications)

TALLAHASSEE – Florida A&M University (FAMU) received $5 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation today to create a Cyber Policy Institute that will allow the University to develop scholars to address cyber policy issues evolving from the rapid digitalization of our disciplines and professions.

“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 Hewlett Foundation’s 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 developing a more diverse cyber policy field that can keep us all safer in cyberspace.”

The Cyber Policy Institute is a collaborative effort brought to fruition by FAMU CST Dean Richard A. Aló, Ph.D., Richard Long, Ph.D., CST associate dean, and CSSAH Dean Valencia Matthews Ph.D., and Kyle Eidahl Ph.D., professor of history.  This team oversees the development of this Institute.

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 co-principal investigator Aló.

“The institute will engage faculty and graduate student fellows and broaden collaboration between non-STEM and STEM disciplines,” Aló 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, Aló 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,” Aló said. “Data Science and its tools have significantly influenced the workforce where our professions are rapidly being digitalized and demand the fusion of our domain sciences with 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 significantly lags technological advances in government or the corporate environment.”

As part of today’s announcement, Hewlett Foundation announced four complimentary awards. In addition to FAMU, they included another Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Spelman College to receive the funding to support the launch and expansion of complementary and interdisciplinary cyber-related 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. Stanford University, a former Hewlett Foundation grantee, is a mentor for the FAMU group.

The partnership aims to integrate science-based and market-oriented knowledge domains within the university to help students develop expertise in cyber policy and, ultimately, earn a master’s degree in cyber policy- the announcement stated.