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W&M and NATO ACT invite undergraduates from around the world to compete in an international cybersecurity case competition


William & Mary’s Global Innovation Challenge (WMGIC) will partner with the Whole of Government Center of Excellence and NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) to host the first WMGIC x NATO ACT Cybersecurity Challenge on the topic of disinformation and election interference in the cyber realm. The event will be held virtually over Zoom on Friday, November 12, 2021, from 8am-1:45pm ET (1:00pm-6:45pm GMT). The opening of the competition will be broadcast live to the public over Zoom at 8am ET (1:00pm GMT).

Student teams will receive a detailed case study prior to the start of the challenge. William & Mary and NATO ACT will develop the scenario based on current global threats and challenges and will include background information, such as details on tactics used by key nations and proxy groups.

During the Challenge and over the course of six hours, teams will work with mentors to design a recommended plan of action for NATO based on the case study, research question, and task. Each plan of action will consider NATO’s existing capacity and what actions NATO should implement within the next 12 months. Panels of expert judges will evaluate the proposals and select five winners. The winners will be announced at the conclusion of the Challenge in a live Zoom event/webinar from 1pm to 1:45pm ET (6pm-6:45pm GMT).

This Challenge is open to undergraduate students in universities nationwide and internationally from NATO Member Nations. The entire event is conducted in English. Each team will be comprised of three to five students. All levels of experience, and all majors are welcome. A total of $2,500 in cash prizes will be awarded.

Innovation through collaboration

The Global Innovation Challenge (WMGIC) is the premier intercollegiate hackathon-style international and sustainable development case competition aimed at encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration to create innovative solutions for current global issues.

Established by students at William & Mary in 2017, WMGIC provides undergraduate students worldwide a platform for open collaboration and discussion with peers, faculty, and knowledgeable professionals to analyze and create sustainable and scalable solutions.

“Students have creative perspectives on important issues, and our competition provides an opportunity for them to share those perspectives in a forum that includes leaders and practitioners in relevant fields as well as peers,” explained Thomas Liu ’22, President of WMGIC and co-director with Nathaly Perez Rojas ’22 of this year’s Challenge. “For the first time, we are excited to expand beyond our flagship event focused on international and sustainable development.”

Although prize money is an incentive, the students gain more than monetary benefits, noted Perez Rojas. “The competition increases students' knowledge about the case study, design thinking, innovative processes, and policy entrepreneurship. It’s an invaluable opportunity.”

WMGIC Partnership with Whole of Government Center of Excellence and NATO ACT

Although this year’s collaboration is new, it is a logical partnership among organizations with similar goals and a belief in the WMGIC process and outcomes.

The mission of the William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence is to train a new generation of future leaders who have hands-on, practical experience working across the different organizational cultures. The work of the Center is primarily focused on training, education, and research related to interagency collaboration, complex national security challenges, and other public policy problems for mid-career policy professionals and military officers.

Dr. Kathryn Floyd, Director of the Whole of Government Center of Excellence, saw the collaboration as a natural fit. “The Challenge is more than a showcase for talent; it will build interdisciplinary cooperation among students, policymakers, researchers, and experts with the goal of leveraging global resources to enhance NATO’s cybersecurity,” said Floyd. “WMGIC is a great example of the best of whole of government thinking in action.

Allied Command Transformation (ACT) is NATO’s Warfare Development Command and a leading agent of Alliance innovation. ACT is organized around four principal functions: Strategic thinking; Development of capabilities; Education, training and exercises; and, Cooperation and engagement.

To support its mission, ACT harnesses the largest defence and security network in the world to tackle the challenges facing the Alliance. In addition to leveraging their diverse military and civilian staff at the headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, and centers in Norway, Poland and Portugal, they work with partners from around the world.

“ACT is NATO’s warfare and capability development Command, leading the military adaptation and transformation of the Alliance to ensure it is capable of meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. As the Alliance continues to face growing challenges in cyberspace, we work very closely with a wide range of stakeholders (from NATO bodies, Nations, Industry, Academia, etc.) to guarantee that NATO remains fit for purposes in the cyber realm” said Dr. Alberto Domingo, ACT Cyberspace Technical Director. “Partnering with William & Mary – especially on this event with WMGIC and the Whole of Government Center of Excellence – promises to enhance our network and creative capabilities.”

Students interested in participating in the WMGIC x NATO ACT Cybersecurity Challenge may learn more about the requirements and submit their applications online. The deadline to register is 5pm ET November 2021.

Cybersecurity experts interested in serving as judges or mentors for this or future WMGIC Challenges may contact