$4 million cybersecurity institute proposed for Rhode Island College

Former congressman and alumnus Jim Langevin tapped to lead new department

By: - April 7, 2023 3:51 pm
Gov Dan McKee (left) happily names former U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (right) to be the head of a potential cybersecurity institute at Rhode Island College.

Gov Dan McKee (left) happily names former U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (right) to be the head of a potential cybersecurity institute at Rhode Island College on Friday, April 7. (Photo by Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

PROVIDENCE — Gov. Dan McKee is calling on the General Assembly to provide $4 million in funding to make Rhode Island the cybersecurity capital of New England.

The governor on Friday announced at the State House his administration’s intention to establish a new cybersecurity institute at Rhode Island College (RIC).

“Cybersecurity is a growing market,” McKee said. “We want to help fill that need — create a pipeline of talent for cybersecurity right here in Rhode Island.”

Tapped to lead this new endeavor is former U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, who was outspoken about the issue during his time as chair of the House Cybersecurity Caucus.

McKee proposes an initial three-year budget of $4 million to fund this endeavor — with $2 million coming from state fiscal recovery funds and $2 million from RIC’s existing resources.

If approved, the Institute for Cybersecurity & Emerging Technologies would open this coming fall and host an annual symposium in spring 2024 outlining its 10-year vision. It is unclear how many students are expected to be part of the first cohort.

Alumnus to take the helm

Langevin, a 1990 RIC graduate, retired from Congress in January after 22 years of serving Rhode Island’s second congressional district. His seat is now filled by U.S. Rep Seth Magaziner.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better suited to launch this effort and build success,” McKee said of Langevin. “I was the one pursuing the congressman very quickly, and we’re so proud to have him on board.”

Langevin thanked the governor for his kind words and for the opportunity to lead this new department at his alma mater and put Ocean State on the forefront of modern technology.

“Emerging technologies have become critical components of modern society,” Langevin said. “With the rise of these technologies, the demand for skilled professionals in the field of cybersecurity has also increased.”

Recent reports reveal the need for workers in the cybersecurity industry is rapidly growing, noting that the field grew 250% worldwide between 2013 and 2021, the governor’s office said.

To get this gap filled, McKee said the new institute would offer certificates, bachelor’s and master’s courses — along with online technology industry badging from Microsoft, IBM and Google.

“We want to make sure when students come out, they have business-relevant skills to meet company demands,” Langevin said.

Among the training offered would be courses on how to be a chief information security officer, not to be confused with a chief information officer. Langevin noted that while the two positions do have similarities, the latter “will make sure the trains are running on time” while a CISO “will make sure the trains and people on those tracks actually belong there.”

Emerging technologies have become critical components of modern society.

– Former U.S. Rep Jim Langevin

There would also be courses on testing network security, cloud storage and data transfers, and IT modernization.

“Everything from your toaster and your refrigerator are connected to the Internet,” he said. “All of that has security components.” 

All of these would be part of a newly established cybersecurity major, which Langevin noted is currently something students can minor in as of 2020.

RIC President Jack Warner called the program “the right idea in the right place at the right time.”

“It’s a field that is increasingly a national-security priority,” Warner said.

Sen. Louis DiPalma, who chairs the Senate’s Finance Committee, said he intends to schedule a hearing on the budget amendment “as soon as possible” upon the General Assembly’s return from Spring Recess, which will take place April 10 to 14.

“We need to do everything to protect our identity, our data, and our families,” DiPalma said.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.