CyberArch Interns Gain Hands-on Experience

Roy Parry

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

UGA builds adaptable workforce through growing cybersecurity program

In addition to helping students develop their academic and technical knowledge, the University of Georgia is building tomorrow’s workforce by empowering and training students to be adaptable leaders.

The UGA CyberArch program is one of the ways the university is ensuring students succeed in today’s workforce. The program cultivates students’ leadership, communication and collaboration skills while addressing one of the state’s most critical issues: cybersecurity.

Facilitated by the UGA Institute of Government, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, the CyberArch program helps students gain a deeper understanding of UGA’s service mission while helping communities address cybersecurity challenges.

“By providing UGA students hands-on experience in assessing and strengthening cyber infrastructure across Georgia, UGA CyberArch helps the University of Georgia not only carry out its land-grant mission of service to the state but also address a critical workforce development need,” said Rob Gordon, UGA Institute of Government director.

Foundations of UGA CyberArch

Working in teams of four, CyberArch interns conduct a cybersecurity risk review through a series of assessment questions with partner organizations. The interns then make a site visit before creating a final report that includes recommendations to enhance the partner organization’s cybersecurity posture.

Organizational partners include K-12 school districts, local governments, rural hospitals and the small business community through a collaboration with the UGA Small Business Development Center, another unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. The work helps UGA’s partners build a broader awareness about cybersecurity threats and strengthen preparation for and response to cyberattacks.

UGA CyberArch student Deven Allen practices his presentation with his team. (Photo by Sara Ingram)

“UGA faculty and staff work hard to help communities tap into the resources of the university and create impact. We want these interns to replicate that public service approach,” said program coordinator Mark Lupo. “We strive for CyberArch to contribute to the body of knowledge originating from UGA and designed for the public good, helping to create a program of value and impact.”

UGA is strategically positioned to facilitate cybersecurity training. With more than 75 cybersecurity companies generating an estimated $2.6 billion annually, Georgia is one of America’s top cybersecurity spots. The state leads the nation in the development of cyber talent and research, with 10 colleges and universities—including UGA—that have earned designations as National Centers of Academic Excellence in either Cyber Defense or Research. UGA is one of only three universities in the state with the Research designation.

It’s also a founding member of the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics, a national and international network of academic institutions and organizations that collaborate to expand cybersecurity as a public service.

Hannah Brown and her fellow team members created the presentation titled “Crafting Resilience: Building and Effective Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan” to present to CyberArch communities and clients. (Photo by Sara Ingram)

UGA CyberArch started in fall 2017 with the purpose of bringing together academic and public service faculty to develop a plan on how best to approach community cybersecurity outreach. The CyberArch intern program was added in 2022. It launched with eight interns in January 2022 and now has 30 interns—plus two graduate assistants—and a waiting list of almost 100.

A recent $500,000 grant from Google helped increase the intern pool, and Lupo expects to have 36 interns for fall 2024. The current intern teams include students from the College of Engineering, the School of Computing, the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy, the Terry College of Business and the School of Public and International Affairs.

Building adaptable workforce skills

“We instill in them (interns) that this is work from the University of Georgia, from the Institute of Government, and from Public Service and Outreach, and the organizations we’re working with are expecting a certain level of professionalism and expertise that we need to deliver,” said Lupo.

Through CyberArch, interns develop 21st-century skills beyond their knowledge of cybersecurity. Some of those skills include:

  • Scholarship engagement through applied research ­work led by graduate assistant Hayat Abdulla.
  • Leadership through the founding of the Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) UGA Chapter and presenting at the National K-12 Cybersecurity Leadership Conference in February.
  • Collaboration through cybersecurity webinars, series, CyberArch intern training eLC course, and website design.
  • Communication through a podcast created by CyberArch students.

First-semester intern Collin Ladina, a third-year management information systems major from Sugar Hill, Georgia, was eager to see how his leadership skills fit into the CyberArch model. He holds a certificate in personal and organizational leadership from the UGA Institute for Leadership Advancement.

What he found is that the program is full of leadership opportunities. While their primary work focuses on cybersecurity planning, interns also work on secondary projects, with one intern serving as the project leader. The teams have more leadership roles to be filled, and that creates collaboration throughout CyberArch.

“It’s an environment where everyone is working together to make a real difference and it shows in the results and continued growth of the program,” said Ladina. “Because of the leadership that is present, everyone can collaborate, be proactive and focus on creating positive change for people in communities across Georgia.”

“We are immediately creating value and helping others improve their cyber posture,” he added.