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Student Freedom Initiative and Cisco have announced an expanded partnership to bolster cybersecurity infrastructure at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) by adding three certified minority business enterprises (MBEs) to the cybersecurity implementation team.

The collaboration is a direct response to the Department of Education/Federal Student Aid (FSA) guidance for colleges and universities to comply with National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) requirements, which set safeguards for protecting sensitive information transmitted online.

“When we think about HBCUs, aging infrastructure, and the need to be cybersecurity-compliant in our Cisco systems, we have the services and the products that can assist HBCUs,” said Saidah Grayson Dill, vice president and deputy general counsel of Cisco. “We are leveraging our resources to help HBCUs protect against cyber threats while simultaneously helping to build the diverse IT workforce of the future.”

Milton Moore, founder and CEO of IPC Consulting, said it was an honor to partner with Student Freedom Initiative to ensure HBCUs and their students have a secure and compliant cybersecurity solution that will allow the universities to focus on expanding enrollment, both in person as well as remotely, and increase their capacity for teaching and research.

Damian Young, founder and CEO of Procellis Technology said it was “gratifying to see tangible improvements in the overall well-being of the HBCUs” they have worked with, and Sology Solutions founder and managing principal Ed Christmas said they were proud to have a shared vision to close the digital equity gap through the provision of broadband, training, and economic development.

The cybersecurity solutions and expansion of the implementation team are available at no cost to participating HBCUs due to the generosity of Cisco, whose initial financial support of $150 million was announced in May 2021.

“Over the last two years, we’ve made steady progress building scalable systems, processes, governance, and technology, and establishing strategic partnerships to increase the resilience of our institutions and the global competitiveness of our students,” said Mark Brown, executive director of Student Freedom Initiative. “We look forward to continuing to grow the number of participating institutions and adding other strategic partners committed to long-term, strategic partnerships with all minority-serving institutions to reduce the wealth gap through the lens of education.”

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