IBM Announces 14 New Cybersecurity Centers at HBCUs


  • IBM has now established a total of 20 Cybersecurity Leadership Centers at HBCUs since May.
  • Through the center, students and professors have access to IBM coursework, lectures, immersive training experiences, certifications, IBM Cloud-hosted software and professional development resources.
  • IBM is one of the latest companies to partner with HBCUs to build a more diverse cybersecurity workforce.

In May, IBM announced it was launching Cybersecurity Leadership Centers at six HBCUs, with the eventual goal of having centers at 20 HBCUs in order to build a more diverse cyber workforce in the U.S. This week, IBM announced it has officially achieved that goal, announcing 14 new HBCU partners for the multi-year program.

“Collaborations between academia and the private sector can help students prepare for success. That’s especially true for HBCUs because their mission is so vital,” Justina Nixon-Saintil, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG at IBM, said in a statement.

For the six HBCUs whose centers launched in May, students and professors have already participated in cyber-attack simulation training exercises offered by IBM, security expert lectures and workshops. 

For the just-announced 14 additional HBCUs, they have immediate access to IBM coursework, lectures, immersive training experiences, certifications, IBM Cloud-hosted software and professional development resources — all at no cost to the school. IBM declined to comment on the cost of the Cybersecurity Leadership Centers to the company.

“In addition, we are working with the schools to co-create additional training exercises, workshops and lectures,” an IBM spokesperson told The Plug

Each Cybersecurity Leadership Center is tailored to the individual HBCUs’ needs and wants. 

“We did not want this to be something where IBM says, ‘Here’s what you’re going to get,’” Lydia Logan, Vice President of Global Education and Workforce Development at IBM, told The Plug in May.

“We really wanted this to be a partnership, collaboration, where we said to them, ‘There are a variety of things that IBM can do with you. What is it that’s going to be valuable to you?’ Let’s talk about how we build something together and do this over time and do it in a way that it’s valuable for you, that it’s valuable for your faculty and your students,” Logan added.

Cybersecurity: A growing threat, and a growing field

On May 13, Lincoln College, a small predominantly Black institution shut down after 157 years, a casualty of two devastations — the pandemic and a cyberattack.

On its own, Covid-19, though difficult, was survivable. But after hackers infiltrated the school’s systems late last year and made all recruitment, retention and fundraising systems inoperable for around three months, the harm was too massive to overcome.

This illustrates the growing existential threat of cyberattacks and why preventing them is becoming such an in-demand field. Information security analyst is one of the top 20 fastest growing occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and as of April 2022, there were more than 714,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U.S.

IBM is not the only company to recently partner with HBCUs to build a more diverse cybersecurity workforce. Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering, a nonprofit coalition of corporations, government agencies and HBCUs, launched a new initiative at four HBCUs in June alongside Abbott, Microsoft and Raytheon Technologies.

In addition to providing funding, professionals from the companies will serve as guest lecturers and collaborate with faculty to understand where the education gaps lie to better educate future cybersecurity professionals. 

Accenture Federal Services (AFS), pulling from their experience in consulting and working on cyber threats for the government, works with Hampton University, Howard University and St. Philip’s College to train students through hackathons and immersive labs where students are given a cyber problem and asked to figure out how to solve it. AFS also recruits rising juniors and seniors from Hampton and Howard for internships.

As a growing number of organizations face dire cybersecurity threats, programs are in place now to make sure that HBCU graduates are there fighting the attacks.

Mirtha Donastorg

Mirtha Donastorg is a corps member with Report for America and The Plug's HBCU Innovation Editor and Senior Reporter, exploring start-up initiatives and innovations coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the way students are shaping the future of tech. She previously worked as an associate producer and a researcher for CNN.