A Conversation with Dr. Marco Carvalho, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing

Dr. Marco Carvalho, the Dean of Florida Tech’s largest college, knows cybersecurity professionals are in demand. That’s why the Master of Information Assurance and Cybersecurity program, 100% online, at Florida Tech is designed for real-world applications and is interdisciplinary by nature.

“We have gone through great lengths to build a program that allows you to come out of Florida Tech ready to be a professional in that space.”

We spoke with Dr. Carvalho about the program and teaching in an online environment.

Can you provide an overview of the program?

The Master of Information Assurance and Cybersecurity is a program that we put together that includes both some aspects of low-level security, in other words, hardware and application security, and also some of the higher levels of behavior security, involving more of terms of usability and biometrics. So, it’s a pretty broad program that covers most of the important areas in cybersecurity research and cyber operations.

Why should students pursue this program?

The reason you should pursue the cybersecurity program at Florida Tech is because of the importance of this area in virtually any profession that you choose these days. No matter what you do, cybersecurity will play a fundamental role. If you’re operating in financial, medical, whatever domain, the data will actually prepare you to operate as a better employee, but also as a manager of security in these kinds of organizations.

What types of career paths do you find students pursue with this degree?

Most of the people that pursue the cybersecurity degree, they are professionals, and they are increasing and gaining more experience in this domain. There is a group of students who are shifting areas – they are coming from different areas of professional development into security – and what they are generally seeking is an understanding about the theory and principles of cybersecurity and, most importantly, how to operate with it, how to bring that to practice.

What skills do working professionals develop when earning an online degree in cybersecurity?

Some of the skills you will develop as a working professional when you earn a degree in cybersecurity is your ability to understand the principles and concepts behind cybersecurity applications and information assurance, but most importantly, how to apply these concepts in your everyday activities and how to drive operations in the cybersecurity domain.

Are you ever too old to get a cybersecurity degree?

No. If you have any opportunity to be exposed to that domain, no matter what stage of your life you’re in, you should pursue it. And the reason for that is because no matter what kind of role you will have in that space, being that of a researcher, a designer, a scientist, or just a user, any of these concepts will be valuable to you. In however you build yourself to be in that domain, you will benefit from going through the formal education in that space. So there is always a benefit in pursuing such a degree no matter in what stage of your life you’re in.

What are some of the best practices for online students?

Some of the most important practices that you should adopt as an online student is to develop a schedule. If you ensure that you’re maintaining your participation on an online activity as you would in any physical presence activity, you will succeed. I think that it’s all about discipline, and if you actually maintain that, you will succeed in any of your online programs.

How do you keep students engaged in the online environment?

Engagement in an online program is not as difficult as some people would imagine. It’s all about maintaining the participation that involves the faculty and one another. We design our programs to operate that way. We design our programs in a way that students not only have a chance to be receiving material and information, but they also have a chance to execute joint projects and participate in activities that involve one another and involve the faculty as well, and that works very well in terms of bringing engagement to these kinds of courses.

What do you think motivates students?

I believe that one of the main motivations that students have when engaging in any type of program is to understand how the things that they’re learning apply to the real world. Every time you see an end to the things that you’re learning at the moment, you’re naturally inspired to understand how to better grasp those concepts and how to better utilize those things. That connection is what keeps them motivated to continue participating in the course and grasping more and more of that information to apply in the real world.

How can a degree be rewarding?

A degree gives you a number of things. Every time you pursue an academic degree in any area, you are acquiring both the knowledge, the expertise in that domain, and the credentials to exercise that particular profession. Cybersecurity in particular is an area that has been growing organically through the industry and professional communities and earning a degree in the space gives you the recognition that you have the credentials to exercise that particular role in any organization.

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