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about Dena Haritos Tsamitis

Dena Haritos TsamitisDena Haritos Tsamatis is the director of the Information Networking Institute, the Director of CyLab Education, Training & Outreach.  For Carnegie Mellon CyLab, she is responsible for the strategic planning, implementation, and assessment of information security/assurance executive education, capacity building, and outreach programs. To achieve CyLab's mission of making 10 million citizens worldwide "cyberaware", Tsamitis is designing and developing outreach and awareness initiatives, including the MySecureCyberspace game for children and portal for users at all levels.

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CyLab Chronicles

Q&A with Dena Haritos Tsamitis

posted by Richard Power

CyLab Chronicles: First, from your own personal perspective, give us a thumbnail sketch of the history and evolution of INI? How did it come to be? What was the need perceived? How has it evolved over time? Where is it going?

HARITOS-TSAMITIS:  The Information Networking Institute (INI) was established at Carnegie Mellon in 1989 as the nation's first research and education center devoted to information networking. The INI was created in response to industry demand for engineers who understood the impact of technology on business as well as the policy implications.

In the 1980s, Bellcore noticed that it was attracting two types of technical personnel: communications specialists trained in electrical engineering departments and systems and computer specialists trained in computer science departments. These two types of specialists could not and did not relate to each other well. Furthermore, these technical specialists did not fully comprehend the interplay of business and policy issues. Bellcore sent a request for proposals to several universities to develop a professional graduate program that integrates information technology, management, and policy. Carnegie Mellon was awarded the contract due to its proven ability to teach across traditional disciplines and its strength in the core academic areas.

And so the INI was established as an interdisciplinary program of the university - that is, organizationally, the INI did not reside in any academic department or college, but rather, it reported to the Provost as a "university interdisciplinary program."

In 1989, INI began offering a 14-month Master of Science in Information Networking (MSIN) and a four-month, non-degree executive education program called Advanced Technology Innovative (ATI). The courses for the MSIN were taught by faculty of the College of Engineering, the Department of Computer Science in the School of Computer Science, the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (now the Tepper School of Business), and the H. John Heinz III College. In the nineties, the INI established a name for itself through work with industry partners, including Caterpillar, Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems, and ABB-Zurich. A number of exciting projects took place. In 1993 the students and faculty received a grant that led to the development of Wireless Andrew, the first campus-wide wireless network in the world.

In 2000, INI, still only an “interdisciplinary program”, became part of the College of Engineering and was headed by ECE Head Pradeep Khosla, now Dean of the College of Engineering and Director of CyLab. When I was appointed Director of the INI in 2004, the INI became an integral department of the College of Engineering. Starting in 2002, INI began its focus on global initiatives in response to the field growing worldwide as organizations increasingly need more talent in the areas of information networking, information security and information technology, but also the issues we handle have global relevance. In 2004, INI launched its information security graduate degree program: the Master of Science in Information Security Technology and Management.

CyLab Chronicles: What is the current state of educational opportunity in fields related to information security and assurance? What is out there? Where does INI fit into the picture? What are the challenges of developing such a program? How important is it to an individual's career? How important is it to business and government?

HARITOS-TSAMITIS: The INI offers professional master's degree programs in information networking, information security and information technology. Our coursework gives students a blend of the technologies, economics and policies of secure communication networks to equip them for future positions of leadership.

Students are attracted to our interdisciplinary coursework that exposes them to business and policy as well as computer science and engineering. Carnegie Mellon has top-rated colleges in these areas, so students develop a highly valuable skill set. For electives, students may choose to take courses from, say, the Tepper School of Business or the H. John Heinz III College. Some students pick a single topic on which to focus during their time here, while others choose to branch out into an area that complements their technology expertise.

There is a growing need for professionals in information security and assurance on a global scale. A report published in 2006 by the Department of Management at the London School of Economics revealed a strong demand worldwide for more information technology and information security professionals. According to the report, "a large number of companies rely on a very small pool of internal talent for handling compliance and security projects."

The U.S. Department of Education projects that 1,500,000 jobs related to computer and information technology will be added to the nation's workforce between 2002 and 2012. U.S. universities will graduate enough qualified candidates to fulfill only 50 percent of these jobs.

The government addresses this need with scholarship opportunities through the Scholarship For Service (SFS) program, offering scholarships to students studying information security at the graduate level at Carnegie Mellon, is “designed to increase and strengthen the cadre of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government's critical information infrastructure."

A wide variety of top companies are interested in hiring our students upon graduation, but we would like that interest to be present earlier in the student's career, long before they begin their job hunt. Industry involvement is of utmost importance to give students meaningful internships, mentors, research collaborators and financial supporters.
When we look to recruit students for our programs we look for the best, and often the best students select programs/universities that can offer them scholarships, or some form of funding, and industry experience. We look to our CyLab corporate partners for commitments in the form of sponsored projects and fellowships or scholarships. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership: our industry partnerships are crucial for us to stay at the top and advantageous to our corporate partners because they get early and direct access to the best students.

CyLab Chronicles: The global dimension of both CyLab and INI is vital. Talk a little about what this dimension involves, i.e., what is going on where and the different ways in which programs are structured. Do the opportunities and the challenges vary greatly from country to country? Are the needs the same everywhere? Are some universal and other specific to a country or a region?

HARITOS-TSAMITIS: In addition to Pittsburgh, the INI offers programs in Greece, Japan, and Portugal and will be adding a program in Silicon Valley this fall. One unique aspect of both the distributed and global programs is localized content in some of the courses. For example, the Telecommunications Policy course recently taught as part of the Athens program integrated EU policy issues into a course that normally focuses on US policy. In Japan, fast broadband access and mobile devices are ubiquitous, so security practices related to those technologies are emphasized in the research and training taking place in the Kobe program. In addition to differences in policies and technology trends, strong cultural differences make an impact on the software used, the incentive models, and the threat models that are faced in a particular culture, and thus affect how students would approach and derive a solution.

It is also important to note that students value the international perspective shared in the classroom and the different approaches to problem-solving and teaching across cultures and often comment on this as particularly relevant in today's global economy.

CyLab Chronicles: What is it like in the marketplace these days for INI graduates? What is the environment like out there? What kinds of positions are they being recruited to fill? What are the trends? What surprises you?

HARITOS-TSAMITIS: The bottom line is that our students are in high demand. In recent years, our graduating classes have achieved a hundred percent job placement rate at graduation. Although a few have gone into Ph.D. programs, the majority enter the workforce in a variety of industries in a wide range of leadership positions as engineers, researchers, developers, analysts, and consultants. Companies recruit from INI because our students possess a unique combination of skills in technology, business and policy. What sets our students apart is their understanding of the business and policy implications of technology solutions.

Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Cisco Systems consistently hire our graduates. Financial companies, including Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are also regular employers. The flexibility of our programs, however, sometimes leads students to some surprising career choices that are highly competitive but not necessarily technical. Recently one of our students accepted a non-technical position as a financial analyst, where the other competing graduates for the job were MBAs. Through his electives, he developed some advanced business and finance skills, which when paired with his programming skills, gave him a unique angle to present to employers. I am often proud of our students, but it thrills me to see students exercise the program's flexibility to gain a competitive edge.

CyLab Chronicles: What message should decision-makers in business and government hear about INI? What can participating in INI mean for them? What is there for them to get out of it? How can participating in INI impact the success of their endeavors? Can you give us one or two real world examples?

HARITOS-TSAMITIS: The INI actively looks for business and government partners to sponsor research projects. Our faculty and students are invaluable assets in this capacity. In some instances, the INI programs have been direct feeders for companies, where companies interact with students at the research phase, and move them to interns, and then full-time hires.

Companies may also collaborate with the INI by offering named fellowships to sponsor a portion or all of a student's tuition. Upon awarding the fellowship, the company receives media attention through a press release and recognition on the INI website and marketing materials. Importantly, the company receives access to INI students and alumni for recruitment purposes and may receive a discount for up to three employees to enroll in the INI graduate programs.

Industry connections are vital to our newest program, the Pittsburgh-Silicon Valley Master of Science in Information Technology, which will launch this fall. Residing in Silicon Valley for the spring semester and the summer term, students will participate in a master's practicum where they apply hands-on learning to a real industry issue. Furthermore, the students will intern for companies in the heart of the information technology industry. It is an excellent opportunity for both the students and the companies involved.

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