University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee



Muma professor oversees new cybersecurity program, blazes trail for women in science, technology


USF Professor Giti Javidi

USF Professor Giti Javidi has built a career on encouraging girls and young women to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

As a young woman, she resolved to make information technology her life’s work, despite few women entering STEM fields. Later, as she studied for a master’s degree, she served as the only female member of the software engineering team at IBM.

Leaving the company to pursue a PhD, Javidi discovered a passion for academia and soon was encouraging other young women to explore STEM fields as well.

“There are challenges that cause young women, even those with exceptional talents and abilities, from pursuing or even continuing in STEM careers,” she said. “Through many different initiatives, I have tried to change young women’s perception of STEM disciplines.”

Javidi’s trailblazing efforts have won her numerous accolades, including awards from Google, Microsoft, the National Science Foundation and NASA. Last semester, she received the campus’ Outstanding Professor Award, the highest campus-level honor for faculty and presented on behalf of graduating seniors from the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

“I am so glad that our students recognized how much I care about them and their well-being, as well as their academic progress,” she said. “It means the world to me to be selected by students as an outstanding professor. It really tops any other award I’ve received in my academic career. I am truly honored.”

Now Javidi, a professor of information systems in the Muma College of Business, is tackling another new role. She’s overseeing an academic program introduced last fall that bridges the gap between business and cybersecurity: the Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Management program (IACM).

While USF offers several academic programs in cybersecurity, IACM is the only one that provides students with necessary interdisciplinary skills in both cybersecurity and business. The program debuted last fall in the Muma College of Business.

“This particular program provides students with a comprehensive set of skills and crucial knowledge and capabilities from a business viewpoint by presenting them the overall organizational capabilities required to ensure and maintain the information assurance function,” said Javidi, the program’s director. “Further, the program focuses on the management aspect of cybersecurity, which is grossly underrepresented in the academic programs of most institutions.”

Dr Giti with Student

Currently, 30 students are enrolled; a master’s degree in IACM will be offered in the fall.

IACM emphasizes business processes and data analytics as applied to cybersecurity management. Students in the program gain skills in the business management of cybersecurity, including risk management, incident business response, using analytics to detect, isolate and prevent cybersecurity attacks, and overall management of cybersecurity functions in business enterprises.

Graduates have opportunities in a range of positions, including cybersecurity analyst, information assurance compliance specialist, cybersecurity consultant, cybersecurity incident response analyst, cybersecurity specialist, cyber intelligence analyst, cybersecurity operations analyst, cybersecurity planning SME and many more.

“The job market is burgeoning in this field,” Javidi said. “Cybersecurity jobs are in high demand and the need for cybersecurity professionals is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Therefore, there won’t be a shortage of jobs for our students upon graduation. To better prepare our students, we will help them secure summer internships to gain practical skills.”

The Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Management major has a strong practical focus while being grounded in robust theoretical approaches to develop a solid foundation of knowledge and skills for information assurance and cybersecurity professionals. 

She said that many organizations continue to struggle with a communication disconnect between senior management and technical cybersecurity personnel. The IACM degree began with the notion that organizations need cybersecurity experts who have technical and non-technical skills to bridge that gap in communication.

“The degree assumes that cybersecurity management is a business function,” she said. “As a result, graduates with an IACM degree are equipped with vast knowledge and skills rooted in both business and cybersecurity to serve on the front line of support for governments and business organizations. They will gain familiarity with the various metrics to convert a threat into an estimated loss and thus speak the senior management language.”

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