Tag Archives: Joanne Sexton

Registration open for Cyber Education Summit; speakers announced

Georgia Regents University’s Second Annual Cyber Education Summit will bring together senior military and government personnel, industry representatives, academia and community leaders for discussions on topics surrounding cyber security and education. The summit will take place on Oct. 14 and 15 at the J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons on GRU’s health sciences campus.

“Cybersecurity is one of the most pressing issues of our time,” GRU President Dr. Brooks Keel said. “GRU’s Cyber Education Summit is a tool that will bring knowledge and expertise to our community as we build a curriculum and partnerships and embrace the incoming Army Cyber community. This event adds to GRU’s long list of initiatives that show our commitment to the entire cyber mission.”

Former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland are honorary hosts for the summit. Westmoreland is chairman of the NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee at House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Chambliss previously served as vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The summit will also feature the following keynote speakers:

  • Stephanie O’Sullivan, principal deputy director of National Intelligence
  • Sean Roche, CIA deputy director for the new Directorate for Digital Innovation
  • Robert Anderson, Jr., executive assistant director of Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch at the FBI
  • Gen. Edward C. Cardon, commanding general of the U.S. Army Cyber Command
  • Gen. Stephen G. Fogarty, commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon

The summit will include several themed sessions designed to identify the best ways in which participating entities can align existing strengths to leverage collaborations and partnerships and better serve the public and related private-sector industries. Topics include the need for cybersecurity experts in the healthcare industry, cyber education partnerships in the United States, educating the cybersecurity workforce and building a cyber curriculum.

“If you are connected to the Internet, cybersecurity matters to you,” GRU Cyber Institute Director Joanne Sexton said. “That’s why we are bringing experts from different fields to this year’s Cyber Education Summit. Cyber education is interdisciplinary, and we want the summit to reflect that.”

GRU held its first summit in October 2014 with Chambliss as host and Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service, delivering the keynote address to almost 700 attendees. Since then, GRU has launched the Cyber Institute, which is providing the framework for all things cyber at the university and has hosted two GenCyber summer academies for high school students.

The summit is free for military and government personnel and GRU employees and students. To register for GRU’s Cyber Education Summit, please visit http://www.gru.edu/cybersummit/.

Hull’s Cyber curriculum on point, always applicable

In anticipation of the fall 2015 semester, the focus of educators once again shifts toward curriculum. What’s new, what stays the same, and what do our students need to remain competitive in an ever-changing workforce?

The James M. Hull College of Business is looking to answer all three questions at once. Their response? The Cyber Defender and Advanced Cyber Defender Certificate programs.

Hull’s Cyber Defender and Advanced Cyber Defender Certificate programs, which officially began in the fall of 2013, offer two routes for students interested in taking a closer look at cybersecurity.

The Cyber Defender Certificate program, intended for students seeking a broad understanding of cybersecurity, consists of three required courses and three electives. The required courses include Principles of Computer Programming I, a course that teaches students the basics of cyber-related problem solving, and Introduction to Computer Networking, a broad-focus course that introduces students to the concept of networks and network security.

Most important, perhaps, is the Introduction to Cyber Security class. Through a series of lessons, students taking the Intro to Cyber Security class learn about the importance of cybersecurity in today’s work environment and how they must become their own first line of defense against a potential cyberattack.

“This is a certificate that really anyone could earn and should strongly consider earning,” said Joanne Sexton, director of Georgia Regents University’s Cyber Institute. “The Cyber Defender Certificate shows potential employers that you take a vested interest in your own cybersecurity and the security of your workplace.”

Sexton also said that all of Hull’s applied information and system technologies majors earn the Cyber Defender Certificate on their path to graduation, and around 25 percent of their computer science majors do as well.

The alternative to the Cyber Defender Certificate, Hull’s Advanced Cyber Defender Certificate, is designed for students interested in making advanced cybersecurity one of the foundations of their career path.

In addition to the courses required to obtain the Cyber Defender Certificate, students complete 13 courses, including Digital Forensics and Cyber Network Defense and Countermeasures.

“The advanced certificate is really more for students who are looking to make a career of cybersecurity,” said Sexton. “Students with an advanced certificate are qualified for entry-level work in the field of cybersecurity.”

Sexton stressed the importance of cybersecurity as a workplace concern, regardless of one’s chosen occupation.

“If you’re a public CPA, you have to be able to protect your clients,” Sexton said. “If you’re looking to start your own practice in the medical field, you’ve got to be able to protect your patient information.”

Sexton said Hull has no trouble selling students on the idea of earning their certificates. She said that, increasingly, business students were coming to understand the importance of protecting themselves and their interests online.
“Especially today, everyone could benefit from better understanding the Internet and how to defend themselves while making use of it,” said Sexton. “That’s what we certify – when we hand out one of these certificates to a student, I’m confident saying to my colleagues in the field, ‘this person is ready, capable and prepared.’”

Provost’s Perspective: New Leadership

First of all, let me take a moment to welcome everyone to the campus of Georgia Regents University and the start of the new academic year. Not only am I excited to see our returning students and the energy they bring as they pursue their academic goals, I am deeply honored that so many freshmen and their families have entrusted their university experience to GRU. More and more, we’re becoming a destination of choice for the best and brightest, not just here in the CSRA, but also in Georgia, the nation and even the world.

The start of the fall semester is also a time to reconnect with the faculty and staff who have chosen GRU as the place to put their special skills to use. We know there is great demand for the level of talent we’re recruiting across all our ranks, and I am grateful that so many wonderful colleagues continue to commit their time and expertise to GRU.

Of course, the excitement that came earlier this summer with Dr. Brooks Keel being tapped as the next president of GRU and CEO of GRHealth has been palpable. Dr. Keel has a thorough understanding of biomedical research, a track record of visionary leadership and a history with our legacy institutions that is second to none. As I’ve watched him meet with deans and faculty, students and staff, I’ve been impressed by his warmth and his ability to connect with the people within those positions.

It is indeed an exciting time to be at GRU.

And Dr. Keel is not the only new face who will have an impact on our organization. Indeed, we have recruited several talented individuals to fill other key roles in our university.

Undoubtedly, the person blessed with the best name is Dr. Quincy Byrdsong, our inaugural vice president for academic planning and strategic initiatives. Coming to us from Virginia Commonwealth University, he will be quarterbacking those complex initiatives that require great coordination and interaction with the colleges and different structural units. He will aid us all in ensuring that we have rigor and structure around our academic planning. Though we’ve always been conscious of that need, we feel he is perfectly suited to help colleges, departments, and faculty start framing the academic planning process even earlier, allowing us to consider the “what ifs” surrounding the development of, say, a particular program or major before the time comes to pitch it to those at a higher administration level.

Quincy also will take over some of the operational units that we see as being key to our strategic initiatives. Most visibly, as chief diversity officer, Quincy will also have responsibility for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an office that is very important to me personally and one that continues to be a national model. While the vice president for academic planning and strategic initiatives is new to GRU, it was developed to fulfill a number of critical functions for the institution, and it actually helped streamline our leadership ranks, since three previous positions – two active and one we were searching for – are being filled by this one role.

Dr. Zach Kelehear, our new dean of the College of Education, has only been on the job since July 1, but already he has started making strong, important connections throughout the community by reaching out to the schools, principals and superintendents in our regional education service area. Not only that, but his interaction with the faculty is already creating valuable and innovative ideas. The University of South Carolina’s loss is definitely our gain. And, if you want to start a conversation and see a gleam in Zach’s eyes, just ask him about another of his passions – beekeeping.

Speaking of the College of Education, former dean Dr. Cindi Chance continues to “fail retirement” and has agreed to return and offer her special leadership abilities to the Confucius Institute as its director. Her intense interest in global education in general and China in particular make her a natural to guide the Confucius Institute to the next stage of its existence at GRU.

I also want to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to Dr. Joe Tsien, for his pivotal work in developing and launching the Confucius Institute as its founding director. With the Institute now on strong footing, Joe, a world-renowned neuroscientist, felt it was a perfect time to focus more fully on his true passion – doing basic research in brain science.

We’re also proud that Joanne Sexton has moved into the role of Cyber Institute director. Not only does she have experience as an information technology expert for the U.S. Navy, but she has a deep understanding of our cyber education initiatives. The new institute is certainly in good hands.

And over in the Hull College of Business, we have the transition of Dean Marc Miller into the newly created role of executive director for economic development and entrepreneurial engagement. Entrepreneurship, economic development and community engagement are increasingly important institutional priorities, and we look forward to significant advances through Marc’s work in his new role. The national search for business dean will begin in the next few weeks, and I very much appreciate Mark Thompson’s service as interim dean until the position is filled.

Research administration is fortunate to have a familiar face in a new role – Dr. Alvin Terry joins SVP for Research Michael Diamond and adds strength to this critical unit as associate vice president for basic sciences. Alvin provides administrative oversight for lab animal services, as well as a number of other critical responsibilities.

And as an example of our continuing emphasis on enhancing student services at all levels, we’re happy to welcome David Barron, who, as associate vice president for enrollment services, will be over recruitment, admissions and financial aid, areas which are absolutely essential to our success.

This list is in no way comprehensive, nor does it adequately describe the intentional eye with which we’re considering our challenges. It’s simply a brief selection from a very long list of great people doing great things at our institution, and I hope to highlight more as the months go on. Please know that everyone’s efforts are valued and everyone’s dedication to our shared goal is admired. The success of Georgia Regents University requires all of us to give our best, and I’m confident our students, our patients and our community will receive no less.

Sexton to lead GRU Cyber Institute

Joanne Sexton has been named Director of the Georgia Regents University Cyber Institute. Sexton, a former information technology expert for the U.S. Navy, previously served as GRU’s director of Cyber Education Initiatives.

“Joanne’s commitment to the university and her students, as well as her knowledge of cyber will certainly help take our cyber research, education and curriculum to the next level,” said Gretchen Caughman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“Hundreds of millions of records have been involved in data breaches across the globe, and new attack methods are being launched continuously,” said Dr. Brooks Keel, GRU president. “Through our partnership with the U.S. Army Cyber Command, GRU is poised to take a national leadership role in one of the fastest-growing and most needed areas of professional development. We are confident that Joanne can help us get there.”

GRU launched the Cyber Institute in June to develop research, new curriculum and outreach opportunities in cybersecurity. The creation of the institute is a step toward gaining recognition as a Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.

Before joining GRU, Sexton served as the first commanding officer of what is known today as Navy Information Operations Command Georgia. She has more than 20 years of information technology experience in the Navy, spanning hardware maintenance, software development and support, telecommunications services, computer center operations, software quality assurance, space operations management, project management and information security practice.

Sexton holds master’s degrees in computer science and in national and strategic studies. She is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and has earned Global Information Assurance Certifications in several areas of cyberdefense, including security essentials, incident handling, intrusion analysis and penetration testing.

The GRU Cyber Institute provides the framework for all things cyber at the university. Current cybersecurity courses and degrees include advanced information assurance through the Hull College of Business,  medical informatics program, focused on protection of health information, through the College of Allied Health Sciences, and courses on cyberterrorism through the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

GRU hosts cybersecurity conference

Local and national cyber experts are developing ways to counteract the growing number of cyberattacks, and you could learn from them for free.

You can now register for BSidesAugusta 2015, a cybersecurity conference that gathers experts from across the country to discuss the latest on cyberattack and cyberdefense strategies. The conference will go from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Georgia Regents University.

“GRU is proud to host and help sponsor BSidesAugusta,” said Joanne Sexton, Director of Cyber Security Educational Initiatives at GRU. “Through our association with BSidesAugusta since 2013, our students, faculty and information technology staff as well as the local community have benefited from highly technical, professional cybersecurity presentations by well-known cyber industry experts.”

There is no cost to attend the conference, but space is limited. You must register by Aug. 1 on the BSidesAugusta website. All participants will receive a free t-shirt and lunch at the event.

For more information, follow @BSidesAugusta on Twitter or email BSidesAugusta@gmail.com.

Students graduate from first session of Cyber and Health Science Academies

Dozens of Georgia and South Carolina high school students celebrated graduation a little early on Thursday, June 25. Participants of the Cyber and Health Science Summer Academies, students ended their weeklong academic venture with a tearful farewell and some words of wisdom from a very special guest.

Kourtney King Thumbnail
Kourtney King, a student participating in the Cyber Science Summer Academy. Click to learn more about the CSSA.

Admiral Michael Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, took the stage to wish students in both fields luck and success with their futures. He also stressed the importance of finding careers they could enjoy.

“I tell my own sons I could care less how ‘successful’ they are,” said Rogers. “Do something that gives meaning to your life that will allow you to sustain a lifestyle, and you’ll be more fulfilled.”

Joanne Sexton, Director for GRU Cyber Security Educational Initiatives, said that it had been both an “honor and joy” to teach such receptive, open-minded students.

Denise Kornegay, Executive Director, Statewide Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) and Associate Dean of AHEC at the Medical College of Georgia, mirrored Sexton’s sentiments.

“We are so pleased to have had the opportunity to teach these students,” she said. “The memories they’ve made will last them a lifetime.”

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Sabrina Dowds, a student participating in the Health Science Summer Academy. Click to learn more about the HSSA.

Rackley Wren, an 18-year-old senior from Augusta Preparatory School, said the Cyber Science Summer Academy was an amazing experience, and one that he would definitely recommend to other students interested in the field.

“I really enjoyed the academy,” Wren said. “Everything we did was geared toward people who didn’t have a background in the field. It was very user-friendly.”

When asked, Wren stated that meeting Admiral Rogers was, for him, “like meeting the President.”

Patrick Crockett, a student participating in the Health Science Summer Academy, agreed with Wren’s statements.

“The health academy was a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “It took you step through step through how things operate, from the top to the bottom.”

Crockett, who said he’s known for a while that he wanted to go into the medical field, said the health academy only strengthened that desire.

Sunday, Georgia Regents University began hosting its second session of both the Cyber and Health Science Summer Academies. The next graduation ceremony will be held on Thursday, July 2.

To view a photo gallery of the academies, click here.

Cyber Science Summer Academy opens doors for rising cyber-defenders

As the number of people accessing the Internet for convenience increases, so too do the number of people looking to take advantage of others. From individuals to major corporations such as Sony and Home Depot, no one is entirely safe from cyber crime.

On June 21, Georgia Regents University launched a pilot program called the Cyber Science Summer Academy. Opened to current high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, the CSSA was developed as a means of teaching younger students the benefits and dangers of cyber defense in a secure learning environment.

But with cybersecurity being one of the fastest growing career fields in the United States, the CSSA was also developed with another purpose in mind: to help train a new generation of defenders.

Joanne Sexton, Director for GRU Cyber Security Educational Initiatives and Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Sciences in the Hull College of Business, said that teaching high school students is the only way to stay one step ahead of our enemies.

“The need for cybersecurity specialists is too great to rely solely on college students or military personnel transitioning into the civilian workforce,” Sexton said. “We have to start going into high schools, possibly even middle schools, to start teaching people how important the need for cybersecurity is.”

Some students, however, already understand the importance.

Dennis Perea, a junior at Aiken High School, said the CSSA interested him because the world is becoming a more dangerous place.

“Cyber science is obviously something that’s been in the news a lot,” Perea said. “Hackings, infiltrations – they’re everywhere.”

Perea said programs like the CSSA help to encourage students to develop skills he considers necessary for the future.

Kourtney King, a rising junior at AR Johnson, said she took an interest in the CSSA for more personal reasons.

“I’m the most tech-oriented person in my family,” King said. “I’ve always surfed the Web, so hearing about all the little tragedies, the hackings, got me interested in cyber defense.”

Both students said they could see themselves working in the field of cybersecurity, if given the opportunity.

“This program was definitely a positive experience for me,” said King. “Being in this program really helped to expose me to the problems in cybersecurity. If there’s any way I could be part of the solution, I will.”

The Cyber Science Summer Academy continues through Thursday, June 25. The second session begins on June 28.

Increase in cybercrime paves way for cybersecurity investments

With the number of cyberattacks increasing and major security breaches costing big companies and the U.S. government billions of dollars a year, investing in cybersecurity is a timely decision.

“Cyber affects everyone,” said Joanne Sexton, Director for Cyber Security Educational Initiatives at GRU. “If you are connected to the Internet, this is an issue for you.”

This summer, GRU is one of 29 universities and college campuses across the country to organize and host the Cyber Sciences Summer Academy. This program will take place in two sessions starting June 21 and June 28 on the Summerville Campus. This summer academy is the result of GRU’s work with GenCyber, a program funded by the National Security Agency in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

This is the first time GRU or the Augusta area will host this kind of program,” Sexton said. “We have to teach the young minds and the public about cybersecurity. We at GRU and we as a nation have a lot of work to do.”

Recently, Chinese hackers stole personal information from about 4 million employees from virtually every U.S. government agency, officials told the media. They targeted the Office of Personnel Management, the human resources department of the U.S. government. The federal government is still assessing the impact of the cyberattack, the biggest hack to compromise federal employee data in years.

“It’s not going to be the last attack. Unfortunately, there are many,” Sexton said. “But that’s why it’s so important for us to invest in cybersecurity and learn more about it.”

Cybercrime can cost the global economy up to $575 billion per year, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and McAfee, a computer security firm. This type of crime costs the U.S. almost $108 billion or .64 percent of the country’s gross domestic product annually. The report also estimates that about 200,000 Americans could lose their jobs due to the economic losses caused by cyberattacks.

 Cyberattacks on the rise

 Cyberattacks on large companies increased 40 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to a report by Symantec, an information technology security company based in California. Last year also broke the record for “zero-day attacks” at 24 total.

A zero-day attack refers to when cybercriminals use a hole in software to launch an attack without software developers even knowing about the flaw. The attack continues until developers learn about the flaw and launch a patch to fix it.

In the top five zero-day attacks last year, hackers took advantage of software flaws for a combined 295 days before developers fixed the problem, according to the Symantec report.

The creation of malware also went up 26 percent last year, according to the report. Nearly 1 million new pieces of malware were created per day.

Mobile threats are also up, according to a poll by CyberEdge, a security consulting company headquartered in Maryland. Almost 60 percent of the 814 information technology professionals who responded to the poll said they saw mobile threats increasing in 2014. The respondents represented 19 industries in seven countries.

Also, 71 percent of the IT professionals polled said their networks were breached in 2014. This number is up from 62 percent in 2013.

Why cybercrimes are going up

Committing a cybercrime is relatively cheap, but the rewards are high, according to the McAfee report. The risk for cybercriminals getting caught is also low.

“The rate of return on cybercrime favors the criminal,” according to the report. “The incentive is to steal more.”

Investing in cybersecurity

To fight the growing number of cyberattacks, investment in cybersecurity has also grown. The National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation, for example, are investing $4 million on GenCyber, a program that offers young students interested in cybersecurity careers opportunities to learn first-hand about the latest technology in a university setting.

“It is important to seize the imagination of young people who have an interest in this field, showing them the challenges and opportunities that await them,” said Steve LaFountain, Dean of NSA’s College of Cyber. “GenCyber camps help interested young people – from every corner of the United States and from diverse backgrounds – gain some incredible experience in this ever-changing field.”

GRU has made cybersecurity a major strategic priority because of the subject’s importance for the Augusta area and the nation, said Gretchen Caughman, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at GRU. The U.S. Army Cyber Command is moving its headquarters to Fort Gordon in Augusta.

“There’s a need for cybersecurity everywhere,” Caughman said. “Cyber education has to start early.”

GRU launches Cyber Institute

Georgia Regents University is creating the GRU Cyber Institute to develop research, new curriculum, and outreach opportunities in cybersecurity starting this summer.

“We want to be known for cyber,” said Joanne Sexton, Director for GRU Cyber Security Educational Initiatives. “The Augusta area has been growing in this aspect, and we want to be a major player in that.”

GRU has been working toward creating the Cyber Institute for a few years and has already established a cyber curriculum, said Gretchen Caughman, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost . The news that Fort Gordon would become the new headquarters for the U.S. Army Cyber Command only accelerated the process.

“We have made cybersecurity a major strategic priority,” Caughman said. “And the University System of Georgia endorsed that priority and provided new funding that will aid in launching the Cyber Institute. GRU is making a commitment as well.”

The creation of the institute is also a step toward getting recognition as a Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.

“I congratulate GRU on this proactive step to enhance educational opportunities for its students and contribute to the Augusta community’s growing role in our nation’s cyber defense,” said U.S. Congressman Rick Allen. “I have heard firsthand from GRU faculty about their vision and commitment to building an excellent program that equips its students to excel in this increasingly important field. I look forward to seeing the great things accomplished by the GRU Cyber Institute.”

U.S. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland also endorsed GRU’s efforts.

“Georgia’s support for the men and women protecting our country is well known and respected across the nation, and I am thrilled to see GRU’s new Cyber Institute will contribute to that excellence,” said Rep. Westmoreland, who is Chairman of the NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Cybersecurity is a highly skilled and critical field in our nation’s defense strategy, and being prepared is imperative to keeping our homeland safe. I look forward to supporting GRU’s success in both student education on cyber defense and security, and their contributions to our national security.”

The Cyber Institute will provide the framework for all things cyber at the university, in cooperation with several of GRU’s colleges, which currently offer cybersecurity courses and degrees. They include cybersecurity programs through the Hull College of Business, a medical informatics program focused on protection of health information through the College of Allied Health Sciences, and courses on cyberterrorism through the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

“We have the opportunity to collaborate across the university, to take advantage of the unique offerings of each of the colleges,” Sexton said. “That’s what the institute is in a unique position to do.”

To watch this story on WFXG Fox 54, click here.

GRU to participate in regional cyber defense competition

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Georgia Regents University is one of eight institutions set to participate in the regional Southeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) being held April 7-8 at Kennesaw State University.

The Southeast CCDC, as part of the National CCDC, is a competition in which students participate in the operational task of managing and protecting an existing commercial network infrastructure.

Out of the 24 universities that competed last month in the Southeast CCDC’s annual Virtual Preliminary Qualification, GRU ranked among the top eight schools which secured them a spot in the regional meet.

The winning team from regionals will then move on to compete in San Antonio, Texas, at the National CCDC, the largest college-level cyber defense competition in the United States. The competition will be held at the San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk April 24-26.

“This is the first time GRU has participated in this competition, and to make it to regionals is testament of not only the quality of our curriculum, but the hard work of our students,” said Joanne Sexton, Director for GRU’s Cyber Security Educational Initiatives.

The GRU team members included the following students:


Michael Banks, Applied Information Systems and Technologies

Chad Reynolds, Computer Science

Katherine Wright, Computer Science

John Bourassa, Accounting

Jim Pinckney, Applied Information Systems and Technologies

Dazmon Callaham, Computer Science

Jeremy Scott, Computer Science

Joseph Reis, Applied Information Systems and Technologies






Georgia Regents University is one of four public comprehensive research universities in the state with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in its nine colleges and schools, which include the Medical College of Georgia – the nation’s 13th-oldest medical school – the nationally ranked Hull College of Business and Georgia’s only College of Dental Medicine. The clinical enterprise associated with the university includes the 478-bed Georgia Regents Medical Center and the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia. GRU is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution.  gru.edu