Q&A with Dr. Shannon McMurtrey – Cybersecurity expert comes to Drury
Dr. Shannon McMurtrey comes to Drury this fall after 15 years teaching at Missouri State University. Dr. McMurtrey is a well-respected expert in the fields of both higher education and cybersecurity. McMurtrey will head the newly created Cybersecurity Leadership Certificate Program, and will bring his expertise to other courses in Drury’s Breech School of Business curriculum as well. As he enters the classroom environment at Drury, we asked him to tell us about his background and why a liberal arts university is such a good fit for a teacher in the tech field.
Question: What’s your background in this field?
Answer: “I started working in the industry while I was an undergraduate student, doing custom development for companies here in Springfield, which eventually evolved into us creating a shopping cart program in 1996. That company – Cart32.com – still exists, primarily as a payment gateway. From there, I was invited to teach a software development class at Missouri State. That’s where I discovered I had a love for teaching and felt like I had a future in the classroom. I shifted to focusing on education full time in 2003 and have been teaching since then.”
How do you stay connected to the industry and up to date?
“One of the challenges in this field is just keeping current. One of the ways we did that at Cart32 was to study what the hackers were doing. We went to chat rooms and forums and just learned their techniques. We felt the best defense was to at least understand what the offense was doing. So I’ve always tried to stay current on hacking techniques. Today, it’s such a huge field that there are all kinds of really good classes and trainings that you can participate in. So I also attend those kinds of classes and maintain industry certifications to stay current.”
What do you love about teaching?
“I love seeing that light bulb go off. When I first started teaching programming I noticed that I connected with the students who were struggling but really wanted to learn. As long as they had that desire to learn it really ignited in me that desire to teach. And I just really like that. I enjoy seeing the same passion that I have for this industry in students as they learn and grow. I just truly enjoy that.”
What has attracted you to Drury and our way of doing things here?
“You know, it’s exactly that. It’s the focus on the student and the excellence in teaching. There seems to be a real appreciation for excellence in the classroom and for connecting with students. That’s what attracted me to teaching to begin with. So I think being in an environment where that skill is highly valued will challenge me to continue to get better as a teacher and do better in the classroom, so that environment is very challenging to me.”
How will you bring your cybersecurity expertise into the classroom at Drury and how will you incorporate it into the business curriculum?
“Students will see it in the current courses such as the management information systems course at the undergraduate level and one that’s currently part of the MBA program. I will definitely be incorporating cybersecurity into those courses to help students appreciate the role they play in cybersecruity. I think that’s something that a lot of businesses are starting to wake up to, is the lack of leadership in that area. So helping future business professionals understand their role in cybersecurity is something I’m very passionate about.”
Are you a business teacher or a computer science teacher?
“It’s a great question. When earning my undergraduate degree, I started off in computer information systems. But I changed it to marketing because I realized it was going to be more important for me to learn what business leaders needed from their systems as opposed to learning how to create the systems, because programming languages change and technology changes. As soon as you learn one language it’s almost outdated. I feel it’s more important for people in our field to understand business and the need that businesses have to seek competitive advantages. How can we use technology in a strategic way for competitive advantage? So I think I would consider myself certainly more of a business teacher that leverages technology.”
Business and technology certainly overlap. But why come to a liberal arts institution to teach them?
“One of the dangers we have in our field is that if you focus exclusively on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – you run the danger of creating robots. But embedding that into a liberal arts education is really appealing to me. Some of the most creative solutions in software and cybersecurity, really anywhere in technology, come from artists, to be honest with you – people who have interests beyond technology. They tend to be artists or painters; they tend to be very creative people. One of the things that really attracts me to this field is the diversity of the people involved in this profession.”