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New cybersecurity director dicusses future plans for developing program

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By Dominic LoVallo

Managing Editor

St. Bonaventure University hired an IT expert from New Zealand for the university’s new cybersecurity program.
Hossein Sarrafzadeh, Ph.D. founded and co-directs New Zealand’s first Cybersecurity Research Center, something he said is an excellent platform to facilitate important conversations that need to take place among education, industry and government.
“A cybersecurity research center at a university demonstrates its serious commitment to preparing the workforce required to keep us safe and secure,” Sarrafzadeh said. “It is a strategic investment that helps the university attract funding, collaborate with academic and industry partners internationally and to develop new talent.”
Sarrafzadeh said everything he will do is part of a long-term plan that aligns with the strategies of the university and that of regional and national programs.
“My job involves providing academic leadership in the management and development of program curricula, teaching, program credentialing, activities, research and funding, development of internship partnerships and reputation,” said Sarrafzadeh.
Sarrafzadeh’s vision for the school starts with a “three-pronged approach” to building the cybersecurity program.
“First, professional development short courses to assist professionals looking to expand their skill set via certificates from technical training companies or stand-alone, hands-on courses to develop specific skills, Sarrafzadeh said. “This will include teachers. Second, build cybersecurity into other pathways, beginner through advanced at undergraduate and graduate levels. Third, create a new masters program with a focus on real-life industry projects in a supportive research environment. Ideally these projects will be funded by industry or government,” said Sarrafzadeh.
Sarrafzadeh said he plans to spearhead funded cybersecurity research projects and create a secondary school liaison program in collaboration with relevant SBU departments. He said this will include initiatives like hacking competitions for students, scholarship programs for new learners and special group initiatives to encourage female students entering the largely male-dominated area of cybersecurity.
He also said the program will look to link with businesses and other institutes to create an interconnected network — and to link its activities to those of other innovation hubs across the globe.
“A successful cybersecurity capability, attractive to students and various other stakeholders is my vision for our program at SBU,” said Sarrafzadeh.
Sarrafzadeh believes that as technology advances every day, students entering the field of cybersecurity become more important.
“An increasing amount of our time is spent online, both for business and entertainment, with new ways to access and utilize the internet being invented every day,” he said. “The corresponding rise in cyberattacks is a continual problem at every level, from the home computer to the biggest servers. The cost of cyberespionage and cybercrime to the U.S. is as much as $100 billion each year, one recent study has said.”
He added that “many commentators are saying that if you want job security, look to cybersecurity as a profession.”
Sarrafzadeh wanted to let the community know how excited he is about the program and how much he believes in the university to develop a successful program.
“SBU provides a great environment to grow a successful cybersecurity research and educational program,” he said. “SBU is based on a philosophy that values honesty, respect for the law, ethical behavior and integrity, which are very important attributes. The team in [cybersecurity] at SBU is a very strong and dedicated group who are not only capable but also committed to making the cybersecurity program a great success. We are all committed to taking the program beyond just teaching and to create a strength that is recognized both nationally and internationally.”
For Sarrafzadeh, the group helping to develop the program is what will make St. Bonaventure a go to place for cybersecurity students.
“Together with the strong team at SBU, I am hoping to make our cybersecurity program a top choice for both domestic and international students,” Sarrafzadeh said. “Enhancing our reputation, making graduates highly employable in high-paying jobs, creating an ecosystem of high-tech innovation and research commercialization and maximizing external funding for our students and faculty will be our top priorities in the coming years.”

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