Interview with Scott Dempsey about the Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security Program at Bethel University

About Scott Dempsey: Scott Dempsey is an Adjunct Professor at Bethel University, where his role is to bring real world experience to the curriculum for Bethel University’s Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security. He accomplishes this by using current case studies and personal case experiences, and by utilizing contacts in the industry who can showcase the tools and challenges that are being faced today. Professor Dempsey has taught both introductory and advanced courses at Bethel and has enjoyed mentoring students and helping them towards their career goals.

In addition to the classes he teaches, Professor Dempsey brings outside speakers and other professional experts to discuss relevant careers with students and also provide insight into the ever-changing landscape of cyber security. As a firm believer that course projects should prepare students for the work environment, Professor Dempsey includes assignments in his classes that are more like professional work projects with meetings along the way to judge progress. Additionally, Professor Dempsey assists with providing guidance for skillsets and/or certifications specific to student career and learning goals. He is excited to bring his many years of experience as a senior programmer and project leader responsible for developing junior staff into the classroom to develop students in the same way.

Professor Dempsey graduated with a B.S. in Finance from Indiana University in 1987. After working in the investment sector for four years, he transitioned to working in Information Technology, starting out in the field as a Database Manager. He has over 25 years of experience covering Programming, Network Administration, Project Management, Security, and Cloud Client Management. Currently, he is a Systems and Storage Engineer at Crowe, LLC, a Manager of Development Operations and an SAP Administrator, supporting several thousand people and multiple organizations across the globe.

Interview Questions

[] Could you please provide an overview of the Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security at Bethel University, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program, and what kinds of roles does it prepare students for?

[Professor Scott Dempsey] Our goal is to have a curriculum that will give any student realistic exposure to the field of cyber security and related careers in IT. I also want to show the variety of paths that are in front of each student (it would be a mistake to think of cyber security as one field; in reality there are a variety of roles and challenges that face anyone looking to go into the field). That being said, there is key foundational knowledge that must be in place so as to allow the greatest success when sending the student into the professional ranks.

Upon completion of the program, graduates should be able to:

  • Identify and assess the computer, mobile and information network security needs of a business or organization;
  • Identify potential security risks and threats and design appropriate strategies and responses to mitigate them;
  • Perform the requisite technical functions of a cyber security expert tasked with the security of an organization’s information and networks;
  • Communicate technical information clearly and effectively, specifically in the articulation of cyber security risk-management policies and the composition of appropriate recommendations for organizational review;
  • Articulate a thorough understanding of the professional, ethical, legal and social issues associated with current advances in cyber-technology and an ethical approach to addressing those challenges in a way that is consistent with a Christian worldview; and
  • Demonstrate the ability to research and apply the latest trends, tools and techniques in order to effectively serve as a leader charged with safeguarding an organization’s digital assets.

Students who graduate from this degree program will be able to take jobs as security analyst, security engineer, security administrator, security software developer, chief information security officer, intrusion detection specialist, source code auditor, virus technician, penetration tester, malware analyst, cyber forensics investigator, and related positions.

Foundational knowledge for working in IT and/or cyber security certainly includes things like basic programming, basic database skills, knowledge of network infrastructure, and the various kinds of cyber attacks and how to detect/combat them. Our curriculum begins with laying that foundation. However, along the way, we are also thinking through real-world scenarios, dealing with realistic programming projects of increasing scope, holding “SCRUM meetings” structured as in the business world to assess progress, and thinking of the role of IT and cyber security as a part of the bigger corporate and organizational structure.

As you learn new skills it is important to also think about how those skills fit within the larger corporate structure. Cyber security and IT personnel do not work in a bubble. You have to know how things fit together and how your work relates to others. Consider the area of data security: it’s not just data, and thinking about how to keep data secure; it’s also thinking about how that data will be used across the organization and who needs it for what purposes.

When people start in this field, they usually start by working in support, perhaps at a helpdesk, or as a junior programmer. It’s great to get that experience while you’re still in school. Then as you progress through the program and gain experience you’ll be ready to step into a role of junior analyst or system administrator. It’s important that you continue to learn on the job and add to your skill set. The most important thing is, when you’re handed a project that stretches you a bit, lean in! Engage with people you work with and demonstrate the ability and willingness to work hard. Learn and add to your skillset in whatever ways you can.

Some people will say you can just Google most things… and that can get you pretty far to begin with. But it’s also easy to get into trouble if you don’t know what can go wrong or how things are interconnected. There are some things you have to KNOW. Our program is designed to help you learn those things in the classroom setting so that you’re ready to work effectively in a career environment.

[] How is cyber security as a field evolving to meet contemporary needs and security threats? How does Bethel University’s Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security train students to meet these contemporary and dynamic needs in the information security space? What kinds of careers and career trajectories does a bachelor’s degree in cyber security typically prepare students for?

[Professor Scott Dempsey] Cyber security is evolving daily as the cat and mouse game between organizations and bad actors plays out. Our program introduces the core foundational knowledge while utilizing current case examples for class assignments. The variety of career choices have grown in the past decade, and the Bethel program is built to prepare you to successfully navigate the many career paths that are open to you. The overall Bethel curriculum has a hand in building a student’s success in cyber security. It would be short-sighted to think cyber security is an insulated entity; a well-rounded background is critical to career success.

Bethel provides that well-rounded background by providing foundational skills in a real-world context (as outlined above). In addition we bring in a variety of speakers. Over the past year, we have had a number of industry professionals speaking in our classrooms, including:

  • State and federal law enforcement cyber specialists
  • Corporate Cyber Security professionals
  • Specialists in hacking of peripherals (also specialists in Machine Learning)

[] Bethel University’s Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security can be completed entirely online. May we have more information about the online technologies this program uses to facilitate interactive discussions between students and faculty?

[Professor Scott Dempsey] I have taught asynchronous and synchronous classes so far. I enjoy a sort of hybrid experience; there is material that most students like to learn at their own pace, and then they can convene during an organized session at a determined cadence to review material, answer questions and/or provide deliverables.

Our online courses are organized in Canvas, arguably the best Learning Management System (LMS) currently available. The online course is organized in modules within canvas, with links (via zoom) for synchronous elements of the course, and with asynchronous components organized in weekly modules. Students interact with a variety of media, including current linked articles, videos, discussion boards text, and real-life data sets and examples.

One of the most popular elements of my courses to date is the inclusion of live Q&A sessions with industry experts who are currently working in the field. Our growing comfort with remote learning technologies like Zoom has made it possible to bring a wide range of experts into the classroom and allow opportunities for meaningful interaction. As a perk of Zoom and live streaming, students who cannot attend synchronously can view the recorded Q&A and demonstration at a later time.

[] What role does faculty mentorship play in Bethel University’s Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security program? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students of this program? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems while in the program?

[Professor Scott Dempsey] I’ve already started working with my current students on résumé development and interview strategies (especially in the programming field). I’ve also been lucky to establish a list of contacts that are either involved directly in hiring or run referral services and internship programs. I’m also working with several key people to work up a ‘pipeline checklist’ to address what hiring managers are looking for and set students up for success as they enter the field. We have local businesses who have committed to hiring (at least) one intern per year.

Because we are a new program, we don’t have a long list of alumni – yet – but our instructors are currently working in this industry and actively cultivate connections. Our first group of students coming through the program have already been successful in finding internships and work related to information technology and cyber security.

In my work as an IT professional, I am part of a team of three in charge of continuity and security of data for our clients through data migration, security incidents and any hardware or software issues. I am the technical point of contact for our clients, responsible for communicating with experts and non-experts alike. I am responsible to our clients to make sure things are running smoothly. That requires wearing a lot of hats, having a broad knowledge base and being able to communicate well with clients.

Other faculty who develop content and teach in our program have expertise in Information Security and Forensics, networks & CISCO administration, software development, programming and even computer science education. All have industry experience that they bring to the classroom.

[] For students who are interested in Bethel University’s Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?

[Professor Scott Dempsey] Letters of recommendation from a variety of sources is always a plus. As far as what I look for in an applicant, I want to see someone who has a background in working as part of a team. The type of work matters less than the experience of being part of a team. When I size up an applicant, I want to see examples of how the individual overcame adversity or dealt with a troublesome hurdle. A keen interest in the topic is also important, but I would submit that team experience and perseverance are more important. Some prior experience in working with computers is beneficial, but not required.

This is a great program for anyone who is interested in IT or computing. Whether you are already working, have an affinity or interest in IT, and are ready to “upskill” in order to advance or prepare for new opportunities, or someone who is self-taught and wants to add a college credential while expanding their knowledge base – even new high school graduates who are hoping to work and go to school at the same time – the flexibility of our online program makes it an excellent option for just about anyone wanting to work in this field, regardless of their background.

[] What makes Bethel University’s Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security program unique, and a particularly strong undergraduate degree option for students? From faculty expertise and mentorship opportunities to the quality of the curriculum, what are some standout aspects of the program that you would like prospective students to know about?

[Professor Scott Dempsey] I endeavor to make an experience that feels like a classroom for the instructional portion of the class, and can also feel like a real-world work environment with project-related work. I have participated in over 200 applicant interviews in my IT career. I know what a young professional needs to have in their toolbox in order to be successful. I am so excited to bring that knowledge and skills into the classroom to develop the next group of industry professionals. I have been so impressed with the students in my classroom – their dedication to growing.

In one of my first IT jobs I was sitting across the table from someone who was transitioning out – back in ’95/’96. The person looked at me and said, “I’m not telling you anything.” He was completely unwilling to help and had no interest in training me or anyone else. That made no sense to me. My philosophy is exactly the flip side of that. I will give every bit of knowledge, experience and skills that I have in order to help my students succeed. This is where my heart is and what I enjoy doing.

I am one of a small group of curriculum developers for this program and I am committed to providing the types of real-world projects, skills and information that students really need in order to succeed as they move forward in their careers. With all my years of experience, I have cultivated a network of people who can share their own knowledge and skills and am glad to be able to bring them into the classroom with me as well. I look forward to seeing you in my class at Bethel.

Thank you, Professor Dempsey, for your excellent insight into Bethel University’s new Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security program!