By Amber Kennedy

Hongyi Wu, director of Old Dominion University's School of Cybersecurity, was honored by the Virginia Alliance for Secure Computing and Networking (VASCAN) with the Founders Award, recognizing his substantial contribution to the advancement of cybersecurity in the commonwealth.

Due to COVID restrictions, Wu was honored with the award in October 2020 during a virtual event but received the physical award during a surprise presentation on Oct. 26. Wu's colleague Doug Streit, ODU's executive director of IT security and planning and chair of the VASCAN steering committee, joined one of his faculty meetings to present him with the award. Brian Payne, vice provost for academic affairs and director of the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation, nominated Wu for the award.

VASCAN exists to strengthen informational technology security programs in Virginia and is overseen by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The VASCAN Founders Award is presented annually to an information security professional, auditor, faculty member or researcher who has contributed to the Virginia information security community in a notable way.

Wu called the award "a great honor for not only me, but also the entire cybersecurity team at ODU." He joined the University in 2016 to lead the cybersecurity program; under his direction, the group of 11 students with no research funding has grown to more than 950 students and $10 million in actively funded research projects.

He credits the interdisciplinary teamwork of faculty, advisors, staff and students for the program's rapid growth and success.

"I am humbled to be in the company of people who have inspired me and helped shape my thinking," he said. "I hope our fast-growing cybersecurity program will train more cybersecurity professionals to close the workforce gap and help everyone enjoy a more secure cyber space."

Wu has served as a mentor to Melvin Orienza, president of the Cyber Security Student Association. "He's my role model when it comes to leadership," he said. "He's been very supportive of our club's endeavors; he's made suggestions and he's sent us to competitions and conferences to help us interact with professionals in the field.

"He helps us envision our future careers in cybersecurity."

Streit praised Wu's role not only in building ODU's cybersecurity program, but as a partner with ITS.

"I have experienced firsthand his collaborative approach, having partnered with him in development of technical labs - the Cyber Research Environment and the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, Coastal Virginia Node research and instructional lab called COVA SHARE," he said. "In addition to working closely with ITS to develop cutting-edge labs for our instruction and research, he has included me in outreach efforts to our students and other opportunities for me to be engaged with the broader cybersecurity academic and research interests of the University."

VASCAN established the Founders Award in 2015 in honor of Shirley Payne, one of the organization's founding members, a former information security officer at the University of Virginia and "an extraordinarily generous collaborator regarding information security." The organization exists to strengthen information technology security programs within the commonwealth and supporting its strategic objectives.

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