U.S. Department of Defense awards UDM-led Cybersecurity consortium $497,080 in sustainment funding

U.S. Department of Defense awards UDM-led Cybersecurity consortium $497,080 in sustainment funding

Senator Gary Peters is pictured in a pair of pictures inside of the Engineering Building, on the left with a professor looking at equipment and on the right talking with a UDM student as they look at a laptop computer.

University of Detroit Mercy received a $497,080 award from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to sustain its work in establishing the Metro Detroit Regional Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute, a regional cybersecurity consortium.

This follows a $1.12-million award from the DoD in 2020 that the University used to establish the Metro Detroit Regional Virtual Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute. The institute is a self-sustaining, regional, virtual cybersecurity workforce development entity formed through partnerships between academia, the vehicle manufacturing industry, and the DoD to address the shortfall of trained vehicle cybersecurity engineers and computer scientists to meet the needs of the military ground vehicle and transportation communities.

“The success of our Vehicle Cyber Engineering program is built upon the strength of our industry and government relationships and high-quality curriculum focused on applied career development in engineering,” Dean of UDM’s College of Engineering & Science Katherine Snyder said. “We are also leveraging the strength of UDM’s NSA Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense which addresses cyber workforce needs in the Information Technology and Information Systems domains. With the addition of our Vehicle Cyber and Cyber Crime programs, UDM will be a leader in meeting the variety of cybersecurity workforce needs in the region and the nation.”

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a 1984 Master of Business Administration graduate from the University and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently toured the Vehicle Cyber Engineering program facility and was briefed by leadership on the Metro Detroit Regional Vehicle Cyber Security Institute’s objectives.

“Michigan is a leader in the development of emerging autonomous vehicle technologies, and Detroit Mercy is helping to meet the growing demand for a skilled cybersecurity workforce across our automotive and defense sectors,” Peters said. “This investment will allow Detroit Mercy, along with its regional consortium members, to continue building a talent pipeline that will support our state’s workforce needs while strengthening our national defense.”

Led by Detroit Mercy, the consortium consists of multiple academic institutions in southeast Michigan and includes the University of Arizona as a research partner. It is designed to expand and enhance the cybersecurity engineering workforce through an online applied curriculum developed in consultation with industry partners.

The consortium also supports upskilling and reskilling for vehicle cybersecurity by prioritizing underrepresented populations, military personnel and veterans.

The award is provided through the Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ (VICEROY) program, which is managed by the Griffiss Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The VICEROY program is sponsored and led by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. VICEROY augments traditional college curricula by providing hands-on, mission-focused experiential learning and internship opportunities that are tailored to match the workforce demands of the Armed Services, DoD, and the Defense Industrial Base.

The extension of the award was based on Detroit Mercy’s performance and outcomes including launching an online graduate certificate in Vehicle Cyber Engineering (VCE) that stacks to a Master of Science in Vehicle Cyber Engineering and establishing a hands-on VCE lab with Digital Twin Virtual Labs developed in partnership with the University of Arizona.

The program is being guided by a Vehicle Cyber Engineering Board of Advisors comprised of leaders in industry, government, military and academia.

The Metro Detroit Regional Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute includes Detroit Mercy, pipeline institutions Washtenaw Community College, Oakland Community College, Macomb Community College and University of Arizona, which will provide research support to the consortium through its research institute established in 2020.

Paul Spadafora, director of Professional Engineering Programs for Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science, said it is important to continue to build the consortium because the demand for cybersecurity professionals is growing.

“The demand for vehicle cyber engineers is growing given technological advancements in electrification, autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI), among others,” said Spadafora, who is co-principal investigator for the consortium with Snyder. “We are grateful to be given the opportunity to develop a cutting-edge curriculum that will equip professionals to excel in this high-demand field from Day One. Establishing a Vehicle Cyber Engineering Program to address the current employment gap will contribute to enhancing the cyber resiliency of our nation.”

University of Detroit Mercy led the awarding and reached students from the entire Metro Detroit Regional Virtual Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute. Awarding $70,000 for incoming students in fall 2023, with the total two-year award of $150,000 issued to 17 students at the undergraduate and graduate level programs.

The curriculum for the consortium includes associate, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees, stackable graduate certificates, hands-on laboratory training and cybersecurity immersion camps for high school students.

To celebrate this accomplishment, UDM is planning to host a ribbon cutting announcing the VICEROY-University of Detroit Mercy Vehicle Cyber Engineering Lab in the coming months.

Detroit Mercy offers programs in electrical engineering and computer science, autonomous and electric vehicle and cybersecurity-related curricula, providing students a variety of undergraduate, graduate and certificate options through the College of Engineering & Science as well as the University’s Center for Cybersecurity & Intelligence Studies.

In addition to the Metro Detroit Regional Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute, Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science leads several consortiums, including ReBUILDetroit, I-RISE with U-RISE, iDRAW and Fly-CURE.

Detroit Mercy’s commitment to helping veterans and military personnel achieve success has been recognized both locally and nationally, earning high marks from Military Friendly Schools and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. The University has also been designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.

Learn more about Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science.