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Associate Professor Karla Carter: Building Community, Inclusivity, and Positive Outcomes in Cybersecurity Education


Carter Builds Community, Inclusivity

Associate professor Karla Carter has dedicated her career to learning, evolving and serving. This commitment to growth benefits all around her, including her faculty and industry peers, undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity students, and Bellevue University alumni.

Positive Outcomes of a Pandemic

As an early adopter of online teaching, Carter is always looking for new ways to give her students the best experience possible. Though the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t interrupt online learning the way it did in-class offerings, Carter said it did provide some learning opportunities.

First, Carter began using Microsoft Teams to facilitate discussions with her students. “That has led to much more exciting engagement,” she said.

Second, she found many of her students struggled with irregular work schedules, illness or caring for family members during the pandemic. She used this as an opportunity to show compassion, offering more personalized guidance for each student’s situation.

“I said let’s figure out a schedule and get the work done, and they all did,” Carter said.

“The most important thing is that they do the work – they need to be safe to work at our banks, hospitals, utilities, schools, defense contractors, etc. and the only way that happens is if they have a chance to do the work and have it assessed. I find out what’s going on if they’re late and we work it out so they get the work done.”

Creating an Inclusive Experience

In addition to focusing on engagement and student achievement, Carter has also taken a closer look at inclusivity in her courses. Her classes include students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some want to transition from careers like law enforcement or retail, while others are looking to advance their careers in IT or cybersecurity.

“I ask myself ‘Am I being representative in my classes?’” Carter said. Carter wants all of her students to know all of them can succeed in cybersecurity. “Any student in my class can see an example of someone like them, in the scenarios, videos and images I use.”

Building Communities 

Carter brings together more than just the students in her class. She launched a Discord Discord server called Minervaverse that welcomes all women in cybersecurity, including her students, peers, alumni, and others who are interested. The group serves as a place to connect with cybersecurity professionals, discuss industry developments and solve problems.

“In cybersecurity, women tend to collaborate more than compete,” Carter said. By building the Discord server, she’s given more women a space to do that.

Carter also runs a cybersecurity group on LinkedIn. It’s a place for Bellevue University cybersecurity students, faculty and alumni to connect throughout their careers.

Committed to Service

Service is at the core of everything Carter does. For her students, this means exploring new technologies, like artificial intelligence. “We’ve got to keep it interesting and stay up to speed,” Carter said.

“We can teach them to use AI responsibly. Students are using it whether or not we teach them how. We need to make sure they are the humans who know how to tell the AI to do things.”

She also serves the greater cybersecurity community by speaking at conferences like the Nebraska Cyber Security Conference and helping colleagues through peer reviews. “I want to help people be who they want to be,” Carter said.

She also recently brought back “The Bellwether,” a Bellevue University magazine that celebrates students’ creative and academic writings. She serves as the publication’s editor-in-chief.

Carter’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. The University recently recognized Carter with its Excellence in Service Award. “I believe we are put here on earth to make it a better place,” she said.

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