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GRIMM Cyber and GRCC collaborate to develop cybersecurity talent

May 6, 2024

Since he was little, Dionel Panuncia has loved technology.

“I’ve always been into computers,” he recalled. “When I was a kid, my dad had an old one that I would play around with, and I loved it.”

That passion eventually led him to study Network Administration at Grand Rapids Community College, where he is one of two students who recently participated in a five-day Automotive Security Training program at GRIMM Cyber, a small business security research firm based in Cedar Springs, Michigan.

GRIMM Cyber partnered with GRCC to provide the opportunity valued at over $15,000. The goal is to foster talent and promote diversity within the cybersecurity landscape by supporting students interested in careers in embedded systems and cyber-physical systems security. The training equips participants with the skills and knowledge necessary to address the complex challenges associated with securing automotive systems in an increasingly interconnected world.

The Automotive Training program is offered biannually, but this session, which took place from April 15 to April 19, was the first time scholarships were offered to current cyber students from GRCC. 

And Panuncia was excited to apply.

“One of my professors told me about the scholarship,” he said. “And I basically said, ‘I’m down, sign me up!”

GRIMM Cyber hopes to continue using this scholarship opportunity to reach students from underrepresented communities, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to address the complex challenges of securing automotive systems in our increasingly interconnected world. 

Jennifer Tisdale, CEO of GRIMM Cyber, announced the collaboration and shared her excitement.

“GRIMM Cyber is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals,” she said. “We are thrilled to partner with Grand Rapids Community College to provide students with access to industry-leading training and empower them to explore STEM careers relevant to embedded systems and cyber-physical systems security.”

Andrew Rozema, head of the Computer Information Systems Department at GRCC, agreed.

"Here at GRCC, we cultivate a sense of belonging that students carry into their professional lives, ensuring they feel connected and significant wherever their careers take them,” he said. “That extends beyond our campus, where students can become lifelong members of a supportive and thriving professional network."

Panuncia had only positive things to say about his time in the program.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “One exercise we did involved working with key fobs, which was probably my favorite because, to be successful in cybersecurity, you have to know the product really well.”

After finishing up his associate degree at GRCC in December, Panuncia plans to transition to Davenport University to complete his bachelor’s degree.

And the knowledge and skills he built at GRIMM Cyber will help him wherever he goes after that, he says.

“I’m going to apply to different companies in the area, or maybe even over in Detroit, “Panuncia said. “With all the automotive stuff I’ve just learned, I think it’ll really help me.”

This story was reported by Alissa Griffin.