June 26, 2017

Innovation Isn’t Just A Student Project

Network Security

One of the issues I face when trying to ensure my students are getting the best education in security, is innovation. UAT was founded on the concepts of continued growth, development, and innovation. Within the realm of Network Security, that can be difficult. Students often find themselves relegated to creating new documentation, unless they’re programmers (a much smaller number of the student population).

How does a student innovate, or even prove innovation? It can be subjective to the individual reviewing the idea. For example, the students may not be entirely aware of what’s in industry; so how can they be certain they’re actually innovating? Instructors aren’t always as connected to the various projects in “the wild”, and may not know the finer details of what could be a relative innovation.

From my perspective, however, I think it’s important hold the faculty and the University as accountable for innovative works, as we do the students. The simple task of delegating innovation to our students can’t be enough. We must be willing to jump in, and provide avenues that encourage the students to innovate. And that requires a few pieces of knowledge.

First, faculty members need to understand the state of the industry. We simply can’t provide solid direction to students on what may be innovative if we aren’t aware, ourselves. This requires time for learning, reading, researching, and keeping up with current technology and processes.

cyber securitySecond, we need to understand the interests of the student(s) we’re working with. Not all students are the same, and they have a wide variety of interests in the world of Network Security. For example, one student might be interested in penetration testing, another student is focused on finding bugs in software and creating exploits, while a third student may want to create their own processes and start their own business. All of these objectives are worthy of our time, but there isn’t necessarily much crossover between those areas of interest. The students needs the personal mentor; a guide, as they learn and explore.

Lastly, faculty members must bridge the gap between ideas and execution. We should be there to help build the infrastructure and support mechanisms to help our students along. The software, the course shells, the advice, the lessons learned, and simply being wall they can bounce ideas off of, are all critical to the success of the student. That requires faculty member who are intimately involved in a student’s education and research. We can’t be a casual observer.

Students have tremendous potential for creative solutions to problems. If the security industry is to evolve and succeed, we need these students to step up and do their best. It’s our job to encourage those ideas, help in the exploration of concepts, and provide supporting mechanisms to ensure success. I’m not a teacher because it pays so well. I’m a teacher so I can change the lives of the students I teach. In order for that to happen, I have to be as involved in the students’ education and innovation, as they are.

Happy Hacking,

-Russ Rogers
Professor of Network Security, Program Champion

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