Bringing information security professionals to the virtual classroom

Jessica Hallman
May 27, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Early this spring semester, Joanne Peca led several organic in-class conversations in her Information Security Management course for graduating seniors about to head into their professional lives. Topics included negotiation, industry certifications and other practical topics relating to information security that would be relevant in the students’ early careers. 

Then, when the University shifted to remote learning for the second half of the semester, Peca decided to turn the conversations over to industry professionals. She launched a regular speaker series that introduced her students to experts around the country who were working to keep information secure while also navigating evolving changes amid a global pandemic.

“Each guest brought fantastic expertise to the classroom,” said Peca, assistant teaching professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology. “They spoke on business topics, and technical topics, and really just helped to provide a glimpse into what our students will experience as they head out into their summer internships or careers in this new reality we're all living in.”

Speakers included Demi Clark, founder of She Built This City; Paul Rempfer, vice president, division manager at ManTech; Bhanu Jagasia, director of federal cyber security services and risk management at Emagine IT, Inc.; and Dan Wiley, head of incident response at Check Point Software.

They presented talks on topics including managing a geographically remote team, cybersecurity challenges presented by COVID-19, and handling security breaches remotely, as well as discussions on common industry trends such as compliance and consulting.

Additionally, Penn State’s Chris Ritzko, cybersecurity manager, and Matt Scott, IT manager, discussed the University's System for Integrated Management, Budgeting and Accounting (SIMBA) project from an information security perspective. 

“I am thankful to have industry professionals speak; it is helpful hearing advice from those who have been in the workforce for a while,” said Dana Kim, a junior in the class. “Personally, I believe hearing anecdotal advice directly from professionals has a more profound impact than reading advice online, so I am thankful Dr. Peca has provided us opportunities like this, especially during this pandemic.”

Peca noted that she has stressed to her students the importance of networking, and that the guest speakers could help students in her class to begin forming those professional relationships.

“Having these guest speakers was a demonstration of the power of building and maintaining relationships with colleagues and friends in the industry, and leveraging my own network allowed me to quickly pull together a lecture series for the course,” said Peca. “Each one of the guest speakers offered their direct contact information and support to the students, and I hope the students take them up on their offers and begin building their own professional networks.”

Last Updated May 27, 2020