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Cybersecurity Month Feature: Curiosity Drives Carter’s Passion for Education

Karla Carter

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. (NCSAM) continues to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity across our Nation, ensuring that all Americans have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online. Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.

Associate Professor Karla Carter came to her position teaching information technology in a roundabout way, but it’s proven the perfect opportunity. An early adopter of technology, she’s been teaching classes online in the College of Science and Technology since 2006. Since then she’s become an expert in technology, cybersecurity, IT ethics, and keeping students current with upcoming developments.

This isn’t the path Carter originally imagined. Her love of history and psychology led her to a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in European history. She worked in the corporate world before moving into training, which led her to education through a chance meeting with a former Bellevue University dean.

History and psychology may seem unrelated to technology, but for Carter, it all connects. For example, understanding how minds work is key to cybersecurity and protecting information. She has even developed a class that dives into the human factors that affect technology.

Helping Students Find Their Path

Technology holds infinite possibilities for students across a wide range of specialties and skills. As companies, schools, and private citizens become increasingly reliant on technology, more skilled professionals are needed to support this technology.

Part of Carter’s role is helping students find the paths that will be most fulfilling for them. “What people do in their spare time tells you what they’re really interested in,” she said. For example, if she speaks with a student who enjoys uncovering mysteries, she suggests exploring digital forensics. For students who show meticulous attention, compliance auditing is often a good fit.

Finding Lessons in Everyday Life

Carter looks for inspiration in her everyday life. She is continually finding new ways to present material and reach her students. “I have a very curious mind. Even when I designed my first class, as I was teaching it, I was always coming up with new things,” she said.

She finds lessons in the world around her, often when listening to a seemingly unrelated audiobook or watching a movie. “I’m always looking for things to use in class,” she said. “You have to be curious about this world and how everything fits together.”

Engaging Learners Beyond the Course Content

In her classes, Carter provides a virtual “corner pub” where she encourages students to engage. This provides yet another way for students to share about what’s going on in their lives, which secondarily gives more context to their studies.

For example, Carter said, as a result of COVID-19, she’s seen students discussing a rise in COVID-related phishing emails. They’re also discussing how working from home affects technology, and the challenges those who need to go into to work are having.

Diving Into the World of IT Ethics

Carter has also established herself as an expert on IT Ethics. She first became interested in ethics and privacy in 2007 when exploring MySpace. This again gives her an opportunity to integrate her interest in history. “I like to take a historical perspective,” she said. For example, many years ago, scammers attempted phishing attacks through telegraph. “If you can figure out people, you can figure out how things are running,” she said.

She also applies current events to her Ethics courses, such as during the

Snowden whistleblowing incident. “The world presents great lessons,” Carter said.

Mastering Cybersecurity Concepts

Cybersecurity has grown dramatically over the last decade, as scammers continue to find new ways to corrupt systems and steal information. Many students are seeing the career opportunities this presents. “The program has just exploded,” Carter said.

To further increase her expertise, Carter recently earned her Master of Science in Cybersecurity. She also recently achieved the SANS Security Awareness Professional (SSAP) certification.

Evolving Courses to Align with Current Technology

For Carter, the key to being a great instructor is staying current so her students are well prepared. “I have to constantly keep up with tech news and updates,” she said.

Carter also keeps learning by staying engaged in the tech community, serving the ACM and IEEE Computer Society professional organizations, presenting at conferences, reading voraciously, and listening to podcasts.

She also helps Bellevue University evolve its cybersecurity curriculum according to guidelines set by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who have designated Bellevue University as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity. “They tell us the concepts we need to cover, and we get to decide how to teach it,” she said.

In the future, Carter plans to form a Women in Cybersecurity networking group. “We need more female role models out there,” she said. “When you get women together, they just want to solve the problem.”