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CIS bottom line: People count

Salvatore (Sal) Aurigemma, assistant professor of Computer Information Systems, was born and raised in Staten Island, New York, attended college in Florida and then served in the U.S. Navy submarine force in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Later, he specialized in IT, supporting the Department of Defense (interspersed with a few years spent in Japan). After earning his Ph.D. in communication and information sciences (with a focus on information security) from the University of Hawaii in May 2013, Aurigemma assumed he would find himself teaching at a university on either of the U.S. coasts, and coming to Oklahoma seemed unlikely.

“The University of Tulsa was the only school I applied to that wasn’t located on a coastline,” Aurigemma said. “I knew little to nothing about Oklahoma, and even less about Tulsa. But after researching the school and recalling that a former colleague in Hawaii had a high regard for TU and described Tulsa as the ‘Austin of Oklahoma,’ I decided to give it a shot.”

Aurigemma’s work for the Department of Defense as a computer engineer and his interaction with many of the IT industry’s leading organizations give him a unique understanding of government culture. He conducted information systems-related work with defense contractors, the Department of Defense and the federal government in general. He served in a variety of roles from system administration, project management and system architecture analysis and design. A major emphasis of his IT work dealt with managing the fusion of disparate geospatial information systems and tactical data links, as well as sharing data securely across multiple security domains and infrastructures.

“I have an insider’s perspective on how the government operates,” he said. “The lessons learned translate across all industries and come down to one basic principle: People are more important than technology. People solve problems — not technology.”

Aurigemma teaches telecommunications, information security and business programming concepts. He engages his students by relating IT concepts to the technology of their childhood.

“A lot of CIS concepts are difficult to understand, especially since students are more familiar with the end-user technology. My job is to introduce these difficult concepts and connect them to the technology that’s familiar by examining how the devices we use every day work. Making these connections shows the students that you don’t necessarily have to be a computer scientist to create and, most importantly, effectively use these tools.”

His research explores employee information security policy compliance, improving end-user and small business information security practices and end-user computing focusing on business spreadsheet error detection. Aurigemma has published research in Computers & Security, Information and Computer Security, Decision Support Systems, the Journal of Organizational and End User Computing, and the Journal of Information Systems Security. He was awarded the Collins College of Business Mayo Teaching Excellence Award for 2015-16.

Aurigemma’s advice to students transitioning from the college years to a professional career is to remember: “People are the most important thing. Always ask how you can use your skills to help those around you. I would much rather hire a smart person with the ability to effectively communicate with our customers than a technical genius who cannot. The point is not to just do a job — it’s to improve something for someone.”