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Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (COVA CCI) Graduate Student Experiential Learning Program

ODU students working in cybersecurity

Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (COVA CCI) Graduate Student Experiential Learning Program

The Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (COVA CCI) has selected 10 students from Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University and the College of William & Mary to participate in the third iteration of the Graduate Student Experiential Learning Program.

The Graduate Student Experiential Learning Program is designed to provide the selected students with a unique learning experience by linking them with cybersecurity businesses, where they will work on real-world projects and applications, as well as supporting community college and university programs. This program will enhance the student’s ability to enter into the workforce by advancing their skills and knowledge.

“Students learn by doing," said Brian Payne, vice provost for Academic Affairs at ODU and the director of COVA CCI. "The advantage of this program is that the learning is benefiting our partners as well as our students. It’s the epitome of a win-win.”

The selected students from Old Dominion University are Jay Lavoie, MS Cybersecurity; Priyanka Patel, MS Cybersecurity; Amanda Wise, MS Cybersecurity; and Kurt Dennis, MS Cybersecurity.

The students from Norfolk State University are Marvin Fowlkes, MS Cybersecurity; Robert Hall, MS Cybersecurity; and Itania Lamarre, MS Computer Science.

Students from the College of William & Mary include Alex Russett, MS Business Analytics; Sean Powell, MS Business Analytics; and Jason Lai, Juris Doctor Law.

For the spring 2021 program, six students will be supporting three cybersecurity companies – CivilianCyber, MI Technical Solutions and Peregrine Technical Solutions. The remaining students are supporting COVA CCI, Christopher Newport University, and Paul D. Camp Community College.

Bobby Keener, chief executive officer of CivilianCyber, said he appreciates the COVA CCI program which is providing him and his company with a qualified graduate student while also allowing the student to gain invaluable real-world experience working with cybersecurity professionals. He goes on to say this program “is a solid win-win for both CivilianCyber and the student.”

Mike Ihrig, president of MI Technical Solutions, supports this type of experiential program. He said, “MI Technical Solution never passes on an opportunity to bring on newly qualified individuals. We have been doing this for years. Our younger workforce is primarily composed of interns we brought into MITS, molded them and then hired them full time.  This particular opportunity is providing us the best of both worlds.  We get to see an individual function in our real time work environment and observe how they interact with the rest of our team. MI Technical Solution would never turn down such a unique opportunity.”

Leigh Armistead, president of Peregrine Technical Solutions, has his students working on a recently awarded National Science Foundation contract in support of an International Maritime Organization cyber security requirement on ships for the University National Oceangraphic Laboratory Systems. This project allows these students to be fully integrated into the Peregrine project team while they develop their cybersecurity and business skills. 

Paul D. Camp Community College has one student assisting with their cybersecurity program. This is the second time COVA CCI provided a graduate student to assist them in redesigning their cybersecurity program to a Linux based platform.

Paul D. Camp Associate Professor Robert Tureman was so pleased with the support by his graduate student, Jay Lavoie, during the fall semester that he requested him by name to continue with this work during the spring semester. Jay described his experience as “more than expected,” and as a result he is looking to pursue an opportunity to teach at the community college. Something that Professor Tureman is assisting and encouraging him to do. This pairing and interaction would never have happened without this graduate student experiential learning program and the funding provided by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.

The remaining three students will work with Christopher Newport University and the COVA CCI Academic Curriculum Committee on a continuing project from fall 2020.

COVA CCI, led by Old Dominion University, is one of four nodes of the larger state funded Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). The other nodes are Northern Virginia (George Mason University), Central Virginia (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Southwest Virginia (Virginia Tech).

For additional information regarding the release, please contact John Costanzo,

Background Information


Virginia’s Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) aims to create a Commonwealth-wide ecosystem of innovation excellence in cyber-physical systems (CPS) with an emphasis on trust and security. Certified as one of the four nodes of CCI, the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (COVA) seeks to:

  • conduct fundamental research in cyber physical systems security (CPSS), artificial intelligence, and 5G contributing to the CCI mission of establishing Virginia as a global leader in secure CPS and in the digital economy,
  • foster and accelerate commercialization of CPSS innovation in order to grow and diversify the Virginia cyber economy, and
  • expand and diversify the cybersecurity talent pipeline through investments in research capabilities and commercialization efforts, and
  • build a collaborative network within the region of educational institutions, business, and local, state, and federal agencies, and with the other CCI nodes

Under these overarching goals, the COVA CCI is developing and launching a diversity of programs, ranging from cybersecurity research and commercialization to the creation of the Cyber Innovation Park.

COVA CCI created a network of over 80 faculty and researchers representing the region’s community colleges and universities. These educational partners include Christopher Newport University, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, William & Mary, Regent University, ECPI University, Eastern Shore Community College, Paul D. Camp Community College. Tidewater Community College, and Thomas Nelson Community. COVA CCI is also partnering with over 20 industry and government agencies including the US Navy, Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding, CISCO, KBRWyle, Sentara Healthcare, G2Ops, 360IT, MI Technical Solutions to name a few. 

Dr. Brian Payne, Old Dominion University, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs is the COVA CCI Director and Dr. Mike Robinson, Old Dominion University, is the COVA CCI Deputy Director