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Dr. Danette Lance is the academic chair for the School of Business at Jones International University in Alabama, which announced a new MBA program with a focus in information security management-cyber security.

Lance helped design the program with support from a distinguished advisory panel including Major General USAF (Ret.) Dale Meyerrose, now the VP and GM, Cyber Integrated Solutions at Harris Corporation, Thomas Billington, CEO of Billington CyberSecurity and David Aucsmith, the senior director of the Microsoft Institute of Advanced Technology in Government.

Lance joined JIU after serving in key roles at predominately online colleges such as Colorado Technical Institute, where she taught in the doctorate of computer science department and Kaplan University, where she taught in the graduate-level information technology department.

Most recently, Lance served as the Dean of Business and Technology at American Sentinel University.

Lance earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from High Point University, and earned PhD online through Capella University.

Q: What went into developing the Security Management/Cyber Security MBA program?

Lance: “Our previous information security management program didn’t address cyber security; it was just security in general. So what we wanted to do was to bring (cyber) security to the forefront, with all the cyber-attacks, initiatives that the government has going on, and try to put that into a program for people who are seeking certifications in CAST (Certified Associate in Software Testing) or CISM (Certified Information Security Manager), who are already working in the field and need to polish their skills, or add to the skills they already had. Plus, bring in more up-to-date technology, like wireless, like Cloud, addressing advanced persistent threats. Those things people hear of in the media, but don’t necessarily understand what they are.”

Q: As an online program, what are some of the benefits? What are some of the hindrances?

Lance: “As far as the benefits, you have the benefit of getting people from difference industries in to your actual course, so you can share experiences. In Colorado, where we are, in the centennial Denver area, and a lot of areas in Colorado, you have a high military presence. A lot people are never exposed to what actually goes on in securing a military facility or facility that is a military contractor. There’s so many different things that you have to add. Where I’m from in North Carolina, it’s mostly manufacturing. Unless you grow up, or you go to school where there’s a heavy manufacturing background in the area, the professors and everybody that teaches the classes, they go from their own unique skills sets, not necessary looking at ‘Well, if I’m in Detroit, everything is going to be about the car industry.’ If I’m in other places around the country, it’s going to be whatever their particular industry is. When you’re in an online environment, you get people from all over the country, and all over the world. As far as a negative, with online learning, it’s not for everybody. It does require that you have time management skills. It does require that you have some self-initiative; that you are able to read and synthesize without somebody necessary spoon-feeding you, or leading you by the hand every step of the way. I like the online environment because exposes me to people that I would otherwise never come in contact.”

Q: As a former online student yourself, how would you describe your experience to a prospective student?

Lance: “I would describe it as eye-opening. You get exposed to people you normally not come in contact with. When I was working on my doctorate in an online class, I had people in a group project where one was on an Air Force base in Arizona, a person in Oklahoma that worked for AT&T, another person that was over in Okinawa, Japan, with the military and another person from North Carolina that taught community college. So, it was interesting. No. 1, it teaches you to work on a team that’s not all in your own time zone. But I was getting information from someone in the telecom field, somebody from the military, somebody from education. So you come in contact with different opinions, different experiences. I think it adds to you first as a person, and to you education, because now you’re taking your frame of reference from a narrow field to a much broader (one). As you move into management, those types of positions in a company that require a bigger-picture-view, it’s much easier because you’ve already been trained, or already had experience doing that in an environment where it’s comfortable.”

Q: What were some key things that stood out to you and your colleagues as you developed this program?

Lance: “It was the small things. One of our classes talks about securing the organization, and it’s not only securing it from ‘Okay, our servers are locked up’ but it is also things like, if you have a building that you share, let’s say one floor of a 50 story building, what stops someone from getting off at your floor, and going and sitting down at a computer that’s just sitting there in one of the offices and start to go through your very personal and proprietary information. There’s a lot of things going around with social networking and social media and people sharing things that are otherwise proprietary and they don’t think twice about it. So that’s one thing.

Also, with advanced persistent threats, you never know when someone, through an email, through junk mail, hacking, what have you, they go into your system, your network, and plant code that they’ve disguised and that starts polling your system, your network and sending proprietary information or data to another source that you don’t want leaked out. Or, it could be that they’re using your server to launch a denial-of-service attack or using it to launch some other sort of attack against government or another business, the military. It’s something that needs to be brought to the forefront.”

Q: Can a potential student cater their MBA to just their interests?

Lance: “We have core courses that give you the traditional MBA look and feel, and that’s important because you have to be able to look at the big picture. More and more IT professionals need to be able to understand what is going on in the rest of the organization. You can’t secure an organization if you don’t know what each person does and what each department does, and how they interact. With our specialization, and those courses dedicated just to cyber security, we are putting the students through a simulation, using a case study, this way students don’t have to worry about disclosing proprietary information about their own company or organization. They’ll be given a scenario, and they’ll work through that scenario completely through the specialization, from the first course all the way through the capstone. And they will be given more information than they would ever need to do any of the projects, any of the course work. However, it designed to simulate what they would find in an organization and would have to come through and deal with to get the information they’d need to do their jobs. We are trying to make it as real world as possible.”

Q: Where do you see the program a year from now?

Lance: “I love to see a thousand students, but I know that won’t happen. I’d love to see growth, and hope to have 200-250 into the program at this time next year – I think that’s doable. And we are going launch and have a booth at the Billington CyberSecurity Conference December 5, here in Denver, and we hope to get a lot of interest there also. I think just raising the awareness that students going for CAST or CISM certification, can work on and take courses and get professional development units (PDUs) for that. With that certification, you have to have so many hours of professional development every year. So it’s a good way for a lot of people to not only get a degree, but get PDU contact hours for their certification also.”

Q: How should a prospective student approach this program – like a traditional student, or can it be done part-time?

Lance: “They can do it either way. The course starts every single month, so you could complete the five courses in approximately eight months. But I think what would be better, is you take one course, complete that – our courses run eight weeks – so every other month, you could take a new course. Within a year max, if you took them one at a time, you could have the specialization courses done. If you wanted the whole MBA degree, you could finish well within two years.”

— Alanna Stage