Cyber Talk Radio: Making Room for Cybersecurity Education Downtown with UTSA

Bret Piatt, CTR Host, and Nicole Beebe, professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio - Episode 145 of Cyber Talk Radio

This past Saturday, July 6, episode 145 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by Nicole Beebe, professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and director of the Cyber Center for Security and Analytics, to discuss the university's cybersecurity degree programs, the new National Security Collaboration Center in downtown San Antonio, and more.

We start the first half of the episode off by reminiscing about past UTSA guests on Cyber Talk Radio, including a guest from one of our earlier episodes, Greg White, who is known for his emphasis on creating a culture of security. We then move onto discussing Nicole’s journey into the cybersecurity industry. She grew up wanting to be a cop, but got an opportunity in the form of a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship for electrical engineering. She found that electrical engineering wasn’t for her, so she was retrained into the office of investigation. Because of her electrical engineering background, they had her train to become a computer crime investigator — and she was surprised to end up loving every minute of it! Some good advice is to get the Air Force to pay you to go to school, and then you can go straight into the reserves once you’re done. The military helps people get educated in both soft and hard skills. How did UTSA find its way into great cyber program? It was really just a coincidence that the Air Force in San Antonio gave it the demand to grow since its beginning in 2001. They offer over 60 courses in four different colleges, with educators and specialists as adjunct professors who give real industry experience and context to students looking to learn about the practical application of cyber course material. Specifically, Nicole teaches digital/cyber forensics and analytics within the College of Business. With an undergraduate cybersecurity degree, students learn both professional and technical sides of the industry. How’d Nicole get into teaching? After she worked in the public sector for a bit, she was demoralized by all of the criminal things she was seeing, so she then became a network security engineer in a private company, decided that she did, after all, want to teach digital forensics. Before the break, we talked about how UTSA is working hard to facilitate productive collaboration between the government, university and industry.

After the break, we dig deeper into UTSA’s National Security Collaboration Center (NSCC), which began as a partnership with the U.S. Secret Service for training. Downtown San Antonio is growing, so the NSCC will be co-located with UTSA’s School of Data Science (and adjacent to a new home for the university’s College of Business) in order to grow with it, placing students and educators alongside the industry and employers. The purpose of the NSCC is to be an accelerator for industry partners and innovators to give access to students and growth. Currently, there are 18 industry partners and 20 government partners, and about half of all of the partners are physically co-locating at UTSA, but these numbers seem to be constantly growing. San Antonio has a unique ability to facilitate collaboration and discussion, more so than many other tech- and cyber-centric cities. This is especially true for UTSA because it is less of a geographically contained university — their campus is mixed in with commercial and residential buildings, as well as the thriving downtown tourist industry. Similar collaboration is occuring at Port San Antonio, in previous episodes, I’ve talked with Jim Perschbach and Will Garrett of Port San Antonio, where interdisciplinary collaboration is a game changer in San Antonio for more creative solutions to military and cyber threats.

Last but not least, we talk about Nicole’s passion for CyberPatriot — a nationwide coed cybersecurity team sport — she is involved in similar collegiate-level competitions called the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC). CCDC was started at UTSA and is a defensive and responsive competition. She coaches and mentors many different teams and competitors in various competitions, which are very useful in solidifying and contextualizing hard skills and also teach soft skills, such as teamwork and communication.

Listen to the full episode replay to learn more about UTSA’s increasing presence in downtown San Antonio’s tech community.

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  • Episode 146, Saturday, July 13: City-Wide Cybersecurity with San Antonio's Chief Security Officer

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