University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee



Cybersecurity and AI Day gives high schoolers a peek at how USF Sarasota-Manatee can prepare them for in-demand jobs

By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing

About 100 Sarasota high school students received a crash course on the cybersecurity industry — and how the University of South Florida and corporate partners like Cisco can prepare them for a potentially lucrative career in the field — during a first-ever Cybersecurity and AI Day at the Sarasota-Manatee campus on Oct. 20.

The campus was the perfect venue for the event, as it is home to the Muma College of Business’s Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Management, or IACM, undergraduate program, led by Professor Giti Javidi.

Javidi, Brad Jungemann, a public sector account manager with Cisco, which co-sponsored the event, and Alicia Williams, director of youth program with Laurel Civic, organized Cybersecurity and AI Day as a way to introduce students from Booker and Riverview high schools to the career possibilities in cybersecurity. The day was filled with various speakers describing cybersecurity as a field that is ever-growing and ever-changing because of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and the need to protect governments, businesses and other entities from increasingly sophisticated ransomware attacks and other hacks.

cybersecurity day

Professor Giti Javidi speaks to about 100 Sarasota high school students during Cybersecurity and AI Day.

A recurring theme in the presentations emphasized the increasing demand for a skilled cybersecurity workforce, and the shortage of skilled workers, like those who graduate from USF’s program, to meet the industry’s need.

“The demand today is greater than it’s ever been,” Jungemann said. “Businesses need to protect themselves.”

Javidi said that USF’s Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Management program was designed in response to such demand. The program prepares students with technical and non-technical skills for for careers in cybersecurity domains, Javidi said.

Javidi encouraged students to reflect upon their choice of college major, especially in the light of ongoing debate on AI potentially replacing human jobs.

“Opting for a high-demand field such as cybersecurity becomes not only a strategic choice but also a necessity for those wanting to exploit the transformative power of emerging technology while preparing for careers that will consistently remain relevant,” Javidi said.

cybersecurity day

USF alum Morgan Salmon speaks about her cybersecurity career.

Javidi shared with the 9th through 12th grade students some recent data showing the evolving job demands and the average salaries for a variety of positions in the cybersecurity field – security analysts, network engineers, cryptographers, security manager and more.

"Cybersecurity roles are plentiful," Javidi said. "AI is, in fact, generating additional prospects for cybersecurity professionals."

Several USF alums who work for Cisco described for the high schoolers how cybersecurity professionals address challenges posed by AI and how their time at USF prepared them to enter and advance in the field.

Not everyone at companies like Cisco goes to work there with a background in technology. Morgan Salmon, a business development manager who has worked for Cisco for more than three years, graduated from USF with a marketing degree. “Without USF, I wouldn’t be where I am at in my journey,” Salmon said.

As for the appeal of a cybersecurity career, “You’re getting to protect people and their businesses,” Salmon said. “Technology is part of all sorts of businesses, whether it’s the coffee shop down the street, USF or the Tampa Bay Lightning.”

cybersecurity day

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor speaks to high school students during the Cybersecurity and AI Day in the Selby Auditorium on Oct. 20.

The Cisco employees introduced the students to some of the basics of cybersecurity. James Risler, also a USF alum, taught a basic course on cryptography, having students use a rudimentary cipher wheel to encode and decode words.

Jungemann, who led the students through a simulation in which they portrayed cybersecurity employees in a fictional company under a ransomware attack, encouraged the students to consider signing up for free online training programs hosted by Cisco to help them determine if cybersecurity might be for them.

A driving message of the day for the students, from top administrators like Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook and Muma College of Business Campus Dean Joni Jones to Javidi and Assistant Director of Admissions Suzanne Gregalot, is that the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus is the perfect place to prepare for a career in cybersecurity.

Holbrook said a Nursing/STEM building being planned for the campus will include an area for the cybersecurity program. “Think about coming here as you plan your college career,” she said.

To learn more about the Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Management undergraduate program at USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit 

Return to article listing

Explore More Categories

About Sarasota-Manatee Campus News

Campus News, Research, Events, and Student Life from around the Sarasota-Manatee campus.