Dr. George Antoniou Assistant Professor, Cyber Security Management
Bobcat Quick Hit:
Favorite Author: Bruce Schneier
Favorite Movie: "The Matrix"
Favorite Quote: "Trust, but verify."
If you could have a dinner party with two people, living or dead, who would it be? And why? "Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It could possibly help me with my cyber security pursuits. Imagine being able to collaborate with such creative people."
Dr. George Antoniou is in his first year as a full-time professor, but he brings a whopping 30 years of valuable industry experience to the classroom. "I worked for various Fortune 500 companies—Sodexo, Office Depot, ADT, Praxair and MetLife—in cyber security," Dr. Antoniou said.
"I started teaching at St. Thomas a year ago as an adjunct professor. Then, a position came open full time, and I got the job, so I am brand new to academia. I am one of the hottest commodities out there in cyber security. I have the background from the industry. I love researching and teaching what is going on out there."
Dr. Antoniou was born and raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus where he also served in the military. He moved to the United States in the mid-1980s and earned a BS in computer science in 1987 and a BS in telecommunication in 1988, both from the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute. In graduate school at Nova Southeastern University, he earned an MS in information security in 2005 and a PhD in information security in 2015.
"When I was getting my PhD, one of my goals was to do research and teach," he said. "In corporate America, I could go into any company and do what I had done over again. I had a passion to give back to the body of knowledge. When the opportunity came, I joined St. Thomas."
Dr. Antoniou is staying plenty busy in his first full year. He teaches the Ethical Hacking, Information Security, Auditing, Risk Management, Cyber Security Technologies, Information Security Policies, Computer Science, and Enterprise Information Security courses in the Cyber Security Management and MBA programs at STU. Even with so much on his plate, he returns home to Cyprus, Greece, each year. "Now, the nephews and cousins are getting married, so I'm going back," Dr. Antoniou said. "You know, ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding.'"
Q: What will students learn in each online MBA course that you teach?
A: I combine my work experience with academia for critical thinking. From the cyber security perspective, I cover what to expect when you go to the industry. I apply not only what is in the textbooks but also life examples of what I experienced from my point of view and how they align with what's being taught from a textbook.
A textbook is good, but the approach is hands-on with exercises, discussions, assignments and cases studies. It's very proactive with me. I'm very passionate about what I'm doing. Sometimes, it's a little overwhelming, but they love it. My example is not a textbook example—that's the difference. Some professors who haven't been in the industry use examples from a textbook, but I give them examples from real life. I show them the good, bad and ugly and try to groom them [so they're ready] when they go out and look for a job.
Q: What is the value of an MBA?
A: The value of an MBA is the right answer for aspiring entrepreneurs and working professionals who want to earn an advanced degree and expand their knowledge. Having an MBA with a specialization in cyber security management strengthens understanding of the ecosystem within a company. It can definitely boost your career!
Q: What advice do you have for the online learner?
A: If you wait until the last minute, there won't be enough time. That's the first thing. Then, ask questions above and beyond what is presented so you learn on your own when you open up a browser (in the old days, it was a newspaper) and click to find out certain news. There's nothing different with academia. You do the research. I tell them that you need time management and discipline. If you have an assignment due in a week or two, don't wait until two days before it's due. When it's posted, start working on it.
Q: How do you make sure you stay connected to your distance learners?
A: I make myself available and stay connected with them through email, text, Zoom ... I tell them, "If you need time, let me know and we'll set it up. If you have a question that's urgent, text me, and I will get back to you." Sometimes I send them emails. I will send them something that's not part of the course but is interesting to know.
Q: Do you think your online learners are different from your face to face learners? If so, how?
A: That's a tough question. With a classroom, you get to know the person a little bit differently and a little bit to the plus side. With the online learner, they are asynchronous. You don't get to know them very well on a personal level. We can joke on an email, but it doesn't come with a facial expression like in the classroom. That's the difference for me. They learn the same thing from both environments. The content, the meat, the way it's being taught is the same, but it's up to the individual how they will absorb it.
Q: If the adult learner brings professional experience to the classroom, how do you think that impacts or changes your teaching?
A: I adjust. I learned from being in the industry and being here at St. Thomas that we have generation gaps. You have to gauge your group of students and see what they are. When you have Generation Z, Millennials, and Baby Boomers in the same class, you cannot make a blanket statement. You have to give them a statement where they can all understand. When you're talking to the groups, you have to adjust your style to reflect their understanding. If you go across the board and try to be homogeneous, you lose certain members from all of the groups because they will take it in a different way.
Q: What is one of your career highlights?
A: While I was finishing my PhD, I did my dissertation at the same time I was working for one of the largest corporations [Sodexo] in the United States and the 21st-largest company in the world. We were in 86 countries with 485,000 employees. I was in charge of the cyber security program. I was also doing my PhD. I'm very grateful for my company, my bosses and my manager. They really supported me as a family.
Q: How were you able to be successful in college?
A: Discipline. I opened my horizons. I was asking questions of the professors and my classmates. I learned to follow the guidance of the professors. I was very detail-oriented, very cautious with the guidelines and directions of the professors.
Q: What did you focus on to get you where you are today?
A: I think the driving force is to learn and contribute. If we don't learn, we cannot give back. That's what I'm trying to do all of the time. We don't stop learning. Every day is something new.