Lori Sussman: A Fearless Veteran Educating Future Cybersecurity Experts

Lori Sussman, Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Maine.
Lori Sussman, Assistant Professor, University of Southern Maine

Cybersecurity is one of the most critical issues that several organizations deal with today on a global scale. With the ever-growing expansion of digitalization of data, it becomes challenging to protect essential information. Numerous instances of data breaches, ransomware attacks are becoming dangerous threats and heading further into the future, and it will become more critical to build secure cyberspace. However, leaders in Cybersecurity are consistently improving existing technologies, and it is necessary to educate the upcoming generation to utilize their unique take on Cybersecurity.

Lori Sussman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology at Cybersecurity at the University of Southern Maine, is one such leader who uses her years of expertise to educate and train future cybersecurity experts. Lori is a veteran who dedicated over two decades of life to the US Army. She now helps organizations build the leadership, technology, and security capability needed for this increasingly global and connected future.

In 2015, Lori was named one of the CRN 2015 Women of the Channel Power 50 Solution Provider by The Channel Company’s CRN Magazine for her exemplary record of success accelerating her clients’ needs through technology solutions.

A Unique Journey

In a non-traditional path to academia, Lori’s career started at West Point as part of the fourth class to allow women into its ranks. Even when dealing with some animosity about women being part of the Corps of Cadets, she learned to “cooperate and graduate.” She proudly graduated as a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps, the Information Technology branch within the US Army.

Lori served over 24 years of US Army service with distinction and retired at the rank of Colonel. It was her honor and good fortune to assume various leadership positions culminating in brigade command. She benefitted greatly from the mentorship and the sponsorship of enlightened senior officers and officials.

During her service, Lori pursued and completed four master’s degrees, which proved to be an essential factor as she moved from the public to the private sector after her retirement. She explored large corporations, small businesses and also ventured into entrepreneurship. As a result, she got to work for elite high technology companies such as Cisco, Hewlett Packard, and a local South Carolina Fortune 5000 company. Lori managed highly complex, diverse, and active organizations engaged in developing, acquiring, integrating, deploying, and sustaining state-of-the-art business, technology, and security systems for clients in these roles.

Lori felt her calling when she read about the need to move from success to significance in the book “Half Time.” So she enrolled in the University of New England (UNE) doctoral program in transformative educational leadership.

In 2018, the University of Southern Maine hired Lori as part-time faculty, and she became full-time faculty in 2019. In three short years, she helped create a new program for a Master’s in Cybersecurity, started a community service Cybersecurity Ambassador program, and started USM’s Cyber Defense team called the Husky Hackers. Lori states that it has been an exceptional experience watching students thrive and grow.

The Mission and Vision of USM

The University of Southern Maine (USM) is a unique institution with a mission to provide students with a high-quality, accessible, affordable education. It has comprehensive undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs designed to educate future leaders in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering and technology, health and social services, education, business, law, and public service.

The faculty is committed to fostering a spirit of critical inquiry and civic participation. Both students and faculty enjoy a culture of academic freedom in an environment that advocates diversity in all aspects of campus life and academic work. USM supports sustainable development, environmental stewardship, and community involvement, thus providing resources for the state, the nation, and the world.

Leveraging Technology to Teach

Consistent with the USM mission to be a center for discovery, scholarship, and creativity, Lori emphasizes projects, writing, problem-solving, active student learning, application of theory to practice, and measurable outcome-based learning when teaching technology or cybersecurity courses. She evaluates students using critical thinking papers, written case studies, class presentations, small group work, and applied projects in the university and community.

Lori utilizes engaged learning techniques to ensure that all of her students can bring theory to practice by applying their knowledge, skills, and abilities in contexts beyond the traditional classroom and providing application opportunities in the community, the laboratory, and other venues. This engaged learning challenges students because it requires sustained and focused application, reflection, and collaboration. In addition, she uses real-world examples to focus on technology and cybersecurity activities to understand the issues better.

Putting her students first, Lori helps them graduate with skills, knowledge, and capabilities that help them in the workforce serves as her focal point. She strives to immerse students in the technology but with enough creative space to evolve, learn, and grow.

When meeting with a student, Lori examines their values, personality, culture, likes/dislikes, strengths/challenges, skills, attitudes, and beliefs. These attributes inform how one can collaboratively navigate their academic career to land that technology job for which they aspire. She spends a great deal of time making sure that her students achieve the objectives of their college experience. They should have a purpose for their present and lifelong learning.

Finally, Lori wants to help her students to appreciate the larger view of themselves, their university, and their community. Students must see a connection between their experiences at USM and the real world.

Heading Into the Future

Lori focuses on creating programs that increase diversity in the technology and cybersecurity workforce. She recently founded the USM Cybersecurity Awareness, Research, and Education Support (CARES) Center, intending to take advantage of being in the state’s fastest-growing region.

USM is a multi-campus university with nearly 20,000 students, making it one of the largest institutions in the University System of Maine. The CARES Center’s goals are to create various educational pathways that provide access to underrepresented populations.

The university is starting to shape programs that include opportunities related to experiential learning, internships, scholarships, curriculum and workshop development, outreach programs, and applied research. It has a collective goal of increasing the cyber talent and workforce capacity to meet Maine’s and private industry cyber needs.

A Note to Younger Ones

In her advice to emerging women leaders in the security space, Lori says, “Be fearless. Believe in your intuition, and don’t take no for an answer.”