Chair’s Message | Students at the Forefront

July 30, 2021

Dear Cybersecurity and Privacy community,

You may have noticed that I devoted a lot of space in these letters last year to faculty matters – finding, recruiting, and blending them into a new school with its own way of doing business and a new culture suited to cybersecurity and privacy (in case you missed it, we have our own vibe). That was necessary. We can’t have an academic department without professors, so job one was figuring out who that might be and turning the sometimes-cranky gears of the Georgia Tech HR machine to move them from where they were to where we are now.

The same holds true for students. The whole point of the new school is to be a home for cybersecurity students. The importance of moving students to the front of the strategy queue was made clear to me this week because of four otherwise unrelated events.

  1. Graduate student orientation starts in a few weeks: Orientation works best when current students are involved in planning and conducting orientation. That usually means representatives from student government and organizations. As a new school we have neither.
  2. Employers have let us know they are interested in student-led and managed cyber labs and ranges: In other schools, existing clubs and special interest groups take up the challenge of student-managed facilities.
  3. A letter on job searches from a recent graduate crossed my desk: The student wanted to let us know that peer networks were a key factor in landing that first position. Cyber students are scattered among a dozen different units on campus. We know from experience that catalyzing these networks takes time and money. 
  4. In discussions with incoming students, it became clear that most awareness of SCP has not penetrated far into campus-wide cyber awareness: Unless you are enrolled in a cybersecurity degree program that is connected to an existing cybersecurity research project, you may not even know that Georgia Tech has a new school. On a related note, I was a half hour into a conversation with a staff member from the business and finance side of Georgia Tech, when it hit me: “This guy thinks I am leading an IT department, not an academic department.” That matters.

The bottom line is that, starting next week, we will begin a series of convenings with students.  My hope is that we will quickly create structures that allow us to be the student-centered department that I promised we would be when I took this job. That includes identifying and recruiting student leaders excited about taking up the challenge of creating a vibrant student life culture. Whether you are interested in startups and incubators, competitive events, governance, enrichment events, or simply networking, I hope you will stop in during office hours and give me your ideas for student involvement in cybersecurity and privacy at Georgia Tech and beyond.

I do not expect us to start at a sprint and try to accomplish everything right out of the gate. Remember, it’s been more than 10 years since Georgia Tech spun up a new academic unit, and, more importantly, we are coming back together into the same space after a long absence. Let’s give each other time to find our own comfort levels and paths to success. At the same time, we are fully focused and committed to moving forward and serving the best interests of our students.

Cybersecurity and digital privacy students now have a dedicated academic home. We look forward to welcoming all of you here soon. Amongst your week one school activities, you’re invited to my first open office hour on Friday, Aug. 27 at 1 p.m. Brendan Saltaformaggio will be a special guest and you can hear about some of the fascinating work in his CyFi Lab and engage with your peers. It’s your hour.


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

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