The Global Affairs Review welcomes Professor Pano Yannakogeorgos to NYU

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The Global Affairs Review (GAR) welcomes Professor Pano Yannakogeorgos to NYU’s Center for Global Affairs (CGA) community. To mark this occasion, GAR sat down with Professor Yannakogeorgos to discuss his new role at the CGA. He joins the CGA community as a Clinical Associate Professor and Faculty Lead for the new M.S. in Global Security, Conflict & Cybercrime. Prior to working at the CGA, Professor Yannakogeorgos served as Founding Dean at the Air Force Cyber College, developing and spearheading a new educational institution to teach cyber concepts, theories and stratagems across the Air Force.

Global Affairs Review: What compelled you to join the CGA community, and what have been your first impressions of the Center?

Professor Yannakogeorgos: I was a civilian government employee with the U.S. Air Force for the past eight years. Most recently, I was the Founding Dean of the new Air Force Cyber College to educate officers enlisted on what cyberspace is, how military missions depend on it, and what risks commanders might take by utilizing cyber dependent platforms within their operations. I spent three and a half years designing courses, developing curriculum, hiring faculty, and recruiting students for the college. While I much enjoyed this specific work, the impact it had was only focused on a niche area: The Department of Defense (DoD). When I saw the advertisement for the M.S. in Cyber Security at CGA, I felt that this would be an opportunity to potentially use the platform I created and take some of the lessons developed for the DoD, applying them in a broader area of society. The goal being not just to impact 4,000 people a year, but impacting students who then will go on to work in the private sector or other countries. I hope the students who graduate from the new M.S. program will go on in their careers to help others demystify the domain so that better strategic level decisions can be made that take both policy and technology into consideration.

I am very excited to be here, and my impressions have been wonderful so far. The CGA has a great student body as well as terrific faculty, colleagues and program staff support.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role at the CGA?

I am most looking forward to continuing to help shape and transform the program from where it is, and to create a graduate degree curriculum tailored to what the rapidly evolving cyber community needs. I am meeting and learning from different stakeholders about what they would expect from a graduate of this program, which then informs the tailoring of the curriculum towards industry needs. This approach will ensure that in the end, students enter the workforce equipped with the necessary skills to affect positive change in cyber across the public and private sectors.

Can you tell us more about your professional and academic focus, and how you will encourage students to apply what they learn in the classroom to the professional world?

My courses are designed to be hands-on and usually begin with a focus on getting the necessary structures in place. I often start by teaching students about the logic, grammar, and vocabulary needed to understand cyber. The second part of my courses then usually focus on applying these structures to case studies. For example, students in my class on political cybercrime, first learn about current debates around how international law applies to the cyberspace, who the threat actors are, what the threat landscape looks like, and assess vulnerabilities and risks of cyber. The second part of the course focuses on case studies and looks at what has happened in the past, in order to break down the components that students learned in the first part. My course on cybersecurity is similar in that it first focuses on essential definitions and concepts before applying these frameworks to case studies. Such cases might look at situations where a cybersecurity target was breached, the reasons behind a breach, and how hackers got into the system. Students will learn what happens in such instances on the technical plain, without coding, to conceptually understand what occurred. This is critical, as it will prepare students to apply this casework as they enter the workforce. It will also provide students with the necessary understanding of what they could do to potentially make their employers more cyber secure, possibly advising on what policies an employer might need to adapt or adopt to create a more robust cyber infrastructure.

 What do you think is distinctive about the CGA community?

Definitely the ethnic, cultural and professional diversity of students. In our program, for example, we have a student from another country who is a police officer sent here to learn about cyber and cybercrime. At CGA, you have students with extensive professional background from other countries, and you have students who come out of an environment where they may have never been exposed to cyber concepts. Still, they enter the program having an incredible passion for learning more about it because they understand that it is important. When you combine students with operational experience with students from other backgrounds who are eager to learn more about cyber, you create a unique educational environment. There is also a wonderful diversity of nationalities and backgrounds in the CGA classrooms. What’s often overlooked in cyber is that diversity of thought and culture are the key components to successful crafting and execution of cyber strategies. 

What three words would you use to describe the CGA?

I genuinely like Dean Jelinek’s vision of creating global citizens, so, my three words to describe the CGA are: Activating Global Citizens.

What is your favorite place in New York City?

I do like lower Manhattan, where CGA is physically located. This is because you have TriBeCa up the street with good food and entertainment options. Also, the CGA is well located strategically, right next to New York City’s Cyber Command. So, from a cyber perspective, it is great to be in lower Manhattan. A few further blocks away you have the Financial District which is a key strategic economic asset for the nation which is also heavily dependent on cyber as trillions of dollars of wealth are created, traded and distributed globally.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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