Chair’s Message | The First Steps to Strategic Planning

February 26, 2021

Dear Cybersecurity and Privacy Community,

The School of Cybersecurity and Privacy held its first faculty retreat this week. Retreats are the first step in a strategic planning process. They are a good way to begin talking about what’s important (and what’s not). Most of the time, a retreat is a closed meeting. There are good reasons for that. Any time you talk about what you stand for, there are going to be clashes.  Emotions often run high. In time, you find ways to work out the important differences, but you might not want the process to be in full public view. Halfway through the afternoon it occurred to me that this group had been engaged in the difficult conversations for the last six months or so. This meeting was an occasion to be optimistic. The retreat was not the beginning of a conversation but was rather a way to focus thoughts that had been in the air for weeks already.

Here is the central question we posed: Does the school subscribe to principles that can be explained to anyone?  Themes emerged almost immediately:

Trust: as a department focused on security and privacy, our goal is to build trust in cyber infrastructure, and we view ourselves as responsible stewards of methods for doing that.

Leadership: we embrace the challenges of building an academic home where excellence, an innovative mindset, and a focus on real-world security and privacy will influence boundaries and outcomes for the entire field.

Learning: a fundamental principle is our commitment to building a learning community of practitioners and scholars dedicated to education at all levels.

Being deliberate: use our unique role as a school responsible to many colleges to organize ourselves in deliberately innovative and agile ways.

We are sifting through dozens of suggestions like these:

  • How do we invest in new ideas? We use the Buckminster Fuller-esque method of finding small projects that, if successful, have rapidly expanding impact.
  • How do we become responsible stewards? We develop modules and courseware for the curricula in all colleges and programs to expose students to the critical issues.
  • What kind of learning community are we? One that experiments safely.   

I hope you lend your voice in the coming weeks and months as we expand this conversation to include working groups and committees to explore ways to implement these principles.

A quick note: Today is the final round of cyber-attacks competition Mad Hacks: Fury Code, hosted by the National Security Innovation Network. Georgia Tech’s own Jane Kim is a member of Team Sky, one of nine finalists. The virtual event is at noon eastern time.

Also, join me to today at my virtual open office hour at 1 pm ET for the regular freeform discussion. I’m sure it won’t take much prodding if you ask me about more of my thoughts from the retreat.


Rich DeMillo  
Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Chair of Computing 
Chair, School of Cybersecurity and Privacy  

Visit me at 
Follow me on Twitter @rad_atl and @richde