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College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Celebrates First Year with New Graduates

The first graduating students with minors in Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, clockwise from left, (CEHC assistant Dean Elizabeth Gray), Dan Giannettino, Greg Bedik, Tyler Grodin, Anthony Cone, Jhilene Walker and Joeie Lum. Not pictured: Phil Waknin. (Photo by Carlo de Jesus)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 12, 2016) -- As the University at Albany prepares for its 172nd undergraduate commencement on May 15, a group of students at the ceremony will be the first at UAlbany to earn the new undergraduate minor in emergency preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity.

It is a significant milestone supporting the vision championed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo when he announced plans for a College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity (CEHC) to be located at the University at Albany. In demonstration of his commitment to protecting New York State residents, Governor Cuomo committed $15 million to establish the first-in-the-nation security college, which will be located on a newly acquired Harriman Campus location adjacent to the University.

As planning for the future home of the college continues, the six course minor has seen enrollment swell to more than 275 students, surpassing targets and making it the seventh most popular minor at the University (of 63 total minors), exceeded only by business, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, communications, and English.

Graduating seniors Anthony Cone, Jhilene Walker, Daniel Giannettino, Greg Bedik, Tyler Grodin, Phillip Waknin and Joeie Lum will be the first from UAlbany to supplement their degrees with this timely and richly interdisciplinary education in security and preparedness.

Cone, of Clifton Park, N.Y., will earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. "Homeland security is a growing field and relatively new department within the U.S., and the added element of cybersecurity is a critical component of national counterintelligence efforts," said Cone, who hopes to someday work for the FBI. Following graduation, his plan is to commission as a United States Marine Corps Officer.

Cone’s time at UAlbany has helped shape his career path, including his experiences in the CEHC minor program. "I have loved working with the professors and staff in the department and the classes were so interactive," he said. "The guest speakers and lectures in all of the classes were really effective and provided great real life experiences that brought class material to life."

Walker, from New Rochelle, N.Y., is majoring in globalization. "The college presents an extremely unique opportunity, and the students, faculty and staff are very close knit," said Walker, who is interested in software development and cybersecurity. Her goal is to become an 'ethical hacker' – the front line of cyber crime fighters who systematically attempt to penetrate a computer system or network on behalf of its owners for the purpose of finding security vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could potentially exploit.

UAlbany CEHC student Phil Waknin
Phil Waknin, who completed his minor at CEHC. is planning to enroll at Hofstra Law School and pursue concentrations in cybersecurity and emergency preparedness.

Giannettino, of Chappaqua, N.Y., will also graduate with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. "I originally applied to a wide range of schools," said Giannettino. "But I kept finding that many people that I had talked to either said that they went to UAlbany or they knew someone that did. This network of people made it very clear that UAlbany was the right choice."

For Giannettino, studying about emergency preparedness was also a natural fit. "I am also a volunteer firefighter so I have seen first hand some of the implications of a disaster from the point of view of a first responder."

Bedik, from Mountaindale, N.Y., will receive a bachelor’s degree in informatics, with a concentration in interactive user experience. He is also a double minor in emergency preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity, and Spanish.  His minor fit perfectly with both his major and his career plans to work in the cybersecurity industry. "As our society continues to advance, we still need to be aware of the potential security flaws," said Bedik.

Grodin, of Amawalk, N.Y., is earning a bachelor’s degree in globalization, economics and Spanish, along with minors in Latin American studies and homeland security. As a student with three majors and two minors, he is interested in a great range of topics and understanding how they fit together.

"Cybersecurity as a whole is an important field of study because we utilize technology for almost everything we do. But for me, emergency preparedness was the most important aspect of the minor because of its vital use across the country," said Grodin. "From the terrorist attacks of 9/11, to the damage left behind by Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, Sandy, and Lee, disasters, both natural and man-made, have lasting effects. Emergency management preparation teaches students about finding ways of mitigating these attacks by lowering their potential impacts."

He hopes to consult for companies on how they can manage their clients, employees, and assets. Grodin envisions applying the lessons learned during his minor studies, such as reducing potential vulnerabilities to companies, determining consequences of risks, and assessing potential threats to help ensure the success of firms.

Waknin, of Queens, N.Y., is majoring in criminal justice and theater to go along with his emergency preparedness minor. "I first heard about CEHC through the University’s news releases. I decided to enroll after learning about the courses that were being offered. I felt that this was a unique opportunity that I just couldn't pass up," said Waknin, who plans on enrolling in Hofstra Law School where he will pursue concentrations in cybersecurity and emergency preparedness.

Joeie Lum of New York is graduating with a major in sociology and a double minor in criminal justice and emergency preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity. "I originally picked up the minor because I needed elective credits and the requirements overlapped with criminal justice," said Lum. But she quickly realized that the coursework for the minor broadened her understanding of law enforcement issues and provided her with a strong foundation in emergency management.

The College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity supports high-quality academic programs for undergraduate and graduate students, with the goal of producing new knowledge through innovative research, and provide training and lifelong learning opportunities for professionals. CEHC undertakes these efforts to help prepare for, protect against, respond to, and recover from a growing array of natural and human-caused risks and threats in New York State and around the world.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.