GW to Offer Hacking for Defense Course This Spring

The Department of Defense is partnered with the entrepreneurial course aimed at solving national security challenges.

October 19, 2021

Duques Hall Hacking for Defense

By Nick Erickson 

Starting this spring semester, George Washington University graduate students will be able to take Hacking for Defense, a course that takes an entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary approach in solving national security challenges in the United States.

The congressionally funded class, listed as MGT 6290, is in partnership with the Department of Defense and offered through GW’s School of Business (GWSB). It is a program of the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), powered by BMNT, Inc. and the Common Mission Project with a hands-on structure as students will split into teams and create a business model designed to address some key areas of need in intelligence and defense. GW will be one of 50 schools in the country to teach the course that started in 2016 at Stanford University. 

Students will modify their project countless times throughout the semester as they present weekly for sponsors, mentors, military liaison, corporate partners, investors and journalists. In years past, several solutions and products built during the course have become companies, including Capella Space and Ox Intel.

GW’s location in the heart of the federal government just 10 minutes across the Potomac from the Pentagon gives students prime access in seeing their work’s impact outside of the classroom.

“This is what you come to GW for,” said GWSB Vice Dean for Strategy Liesl Riddle. “You come to be in the center of it all.”

Ayman El Tarabishy, deputy chair of the Department of Management, will teach the course alongside Chris Taylor, a national security industry CEO and entrepreneur.

Mr. Taylor also spent 14 years as an enlisted infantryman and Force Recon Marine. He has taught Hacking for Defense at various institutions since its inception. He said the course is demanding as students will conduct more than 100 interviews during the semester, but having it on their transcripts will set them up for success as they enter the job market.

“I can’t tell you how many different students have said to me that having Hacking for Defense on their resume made a big impact during an interview with a private sector or government job they’re applying for,” Mr. Taylor said.

Hacking for Defense allows students to experience a multidisciplinary and multifunctional work environment. It also fits the School of Business’ commitment to experiential learning, giving GW students a leg up in applying what the theories and methods used in a classroom to a real-world setting that produces concrete results.

It's not just limited to business students. Course organizers want to see a wide spectrum of problem solving needed to succeed in the team-oriented structure. They are encouraging students from every graduate school at GW to apply.

In addition, GW is excited to have a course that serves its robust veteran community. The GWSB’s full-time MBA program is ranked as the 13th best MBA program for veterans by U.S. News World and Report. GWSB's latest MBA program, the MBA in Security Technology Transition, launched in fall 2020 in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, is also popular with veterans.

“GW is General George Washington's university. It is only natural that the university plays key role in helping assist the transition from military to civilian life,” Dr. Riddle said. “And in my mind, Hacking for Defense, as well as the MBA in security technology transition, are just two of the ways we are doing that.” 

Hacking for Defense will build upon GW’s commitment to student innovation. The university has been a regional Node for the I-Corps program, a National Science Foundation program helping researchers and entrepreneurs launch their ideas and discoveries to the marketplace. In August, GW was one of 10 schools named to the Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Hub. Jim Chung, associate vice president for research at GW’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said Hacking for Defense is the next generation of the I-Corps program.

“It’s the future of what you will be seeing,” Mr. Chung said in a video release about the course. “If you are going to be doing anything in innovation, you need to understand this methodology, and there is no better way than learning it by getting this kind of exposure through the Hacking for Defense program.”

Mr. Taylor called the Hacking for Defense the best kept secret in the United States education system, and GW will officially be in on the secret this spring.

“GW is the perfect university to be hosting Hacking for Defense,” Mr. Taylor said. “If you think about the quality of the schools at GW, the proximity to the problems all around and the quality of the students who are there, I think this is a no-brainer for people. It will change the way you think how you use everything at GW.”