AUGUSTA, GA (WJBF) – Augusta University has its first graduate of its newly created Masters of Arts in Intelligence and Security studies program: Kim Toler.
“It feels very relaxing right now that I was able to get through,” said Toler.
The program combines intelligence studies with strategic cyber security and classic security studies.
“It’s actually a lot more broad than you might think. So, there’s the security part, which could entail national security, homeland security and then we have intelligence, which is more focused. So, you can go both ways: either Intel or security. It’s very broad and I focused more on the cyber aspect,” said Toler.
“What we do is try to take the technical side of things and move it into the strategic sphere. So, we like to help people understand — future analysts, policy makers, military members, people that want to go and get a PhD — how do you apply everything you know at a tactical level to the strategic level? So, how does — for instance cyber warfare play into nation states, what does it mean? We know how Russia interferes in the United States’ elections, for instance, but what does that mean as a cause of war? How does something like that play out with kinetic attacks? What can we look forward to in the future when it comes to that type of information warfare with kinetic operations on the ground? So, we like to fill the gaps that exist between the intelligence community with technical understanding versus the geopolitics of national security,” said Dr. Craig Albert, the Graduate Director of Intelligence and Security Studies.
I asked Kim why this program is so important to have in this day and age.
“When you think about high school, they don’t really focus on careers when you’re not in Augusta, and Augusta’s really good at focusing on career paths, but when you step out of Augusta no one really talks about Intel or security. When you’re in college it’s not really a field you can go into and when you talk about national security it’s very important to the well-being of this country and for the people. So, I think learning about what national security entails and what you can do as a civilian, as a citizen to help protect this nation, I think that’s very important,” said Toler.
“Well, this program is critical, especially when you think about cyber security. Augusta is well-known for its tactical or technical or operational cyber security, but we fill in the gaps for the strategic side. What does all that mean for when it comes to nation-states fighting wars against each other? How do you fight back against a non-state actor like ISIS when they’re fighting you in cyber space? What are the strategic implications of that? So, we put all of the technical knowledge in to a strategic understanding so you can fully understand how, for instance, information warfare…what that means for the United States’ national security strategy and how do we compete with our strategic adversaries like Russia, North Korea, Iran and China in that realm,” said Dr. Albert.
Toler previously attended Cornell University where she received an undergraduate degree in Industrial and Labor relations; but cyber has always been a part of her life. Her father worked in cyber while he was in the Army.
“I certainly dedicated almost 28 years of my life to doing this, so I’m certainly proud that my daughter is following in my footsteps,” said Eric Toler the Executive Director of the Georgia Cyber Center.
I asked Kim if she had any suggestions for anyone interested in this field.
“I would say just apply if your even interested or look at the courses and see if you’re interested in any of them. You don’t have to go necessarily into intelligence or into security. It builds up the skills for you to be an analyst. So, if you just want to go into business as an analyst it’s a good program to build up those skills.”