CEHC Virtual Cybersecurity Institute Hosts Field Trip to Griffis Institute and Air Force Research Laboratory

Benjamin Yankson with students at the Griffis Institute
Benjamin Yankson with students at the Griffis Institute

By Fiona Hernandez

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 5, 2024) - The College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) organized a field trip earlier this month for Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, and Albany High School students to visit the Griffis Institute Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y.

This field trip was organized through CEHC's Virtual Institute of Cyber Operation and Research (VICOR). During the visit, students toured the facility and learned about cybersecurity and military careers.

VICOR is a $1.5 million U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) funded initiative  between the University at Albany and Florida International University that aims to help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals for future military and civilian leadership positions. It is a competitive program, supported through the Griffis Institute, a nonprofit talent and technology accelerator for the DoD. The program offers a $12,000 scholarship for students to use toward training, experiential learning, and networking opportunities, as well as research and mentorship in cybersecurity.

Benjamin Yankson, an assistant professor at CEHC, is co-leading VICOR with CEHC assistant professor Unal Tatar and professor Sanjay Goel of the School of Business.

He joined the students in Rome for the Griffis Institute visit.

"I believe this experience will spark the flame for them to choose a career in cybersecurity that will allow them to work in various areas of the United States government, defend our nation in cyberspace, and address ongoing complex cybersecurity problems in the future," said Yankson. The trip not only added to the VICOR project goal of developing Cybersecurity talent for the United States government but also demonstrated CEHC and UAlbany's commitment and rich history of community engagement to help youth within the Capital District."

Comas Bertram, a tenth-grader at Albany High School, was among the students who visited the Griffis Institute facility this month. He left inspired and interested in a future security career.

"Overall, the Griffis Institute is a hub for technological innovation," said Bertram. "It's amazing to see how far we've come in terms of technology, and it's exciting to think about what the future holds. I left the institute feeling hopeful about the future of security technologies and its impact on the military."

"The trip to the Griffis Research Center is one the cadets will not forget," added retired Major David Erickson Senior Army Instructor Albany High School Army JROTC. "Every cadet left with new dreams for their future."

Last year, CEHC held VICOR's first half-day cybersecurity camp on campus at the ETEC research and development complex, in partnership woth the Griffis Institute. Through the camp, held at the ETEC research and development complex, students learned about the importance of cybersecurity,

The day included hands-on skills development with cybersecurity tools and ethical hacking, discussions about career opportunities and networking with UAlbany cybersecurity professors.

"The partnership between Griffis Institute and CEHC is truly special, especially with initiatives like the VICEROY Scholars program," said Tom Kramer, ROTC lead for VICEROY at Griffiss Institute. "Dr. Yankson's commitment to our JROTC students,  evident in experiences like other recent trip, shows how impactful collaboration between academia and industry can be in shaping our future leaders. It's a privilege to support the next generation and show them the vast opportunities available to them in the cyber realm."