York College cybersecurity expert offers a lesson in disruption

Ulices Samaniego
York College of Pennsylvania

Editor's note: The York Dispatch is running a series of stories written by student journalists as part of a mentoring program with York College. In this story, senior Ulices Samaniego writes about a unique podcast featuring college students and staff.

York College business professor Tamara Schwartz certainly has the temperament of a podcaster — direct and personable — but few of her students would guess her sideline.

Last summer, the cybersecurity expert launched "Weapons of Mass Disruption," a podcast that combined her experiences in business and national security with subjects ranging from police reform to supply chains.

"The idea behind it is to look at how our society is living through and we're in an age of tremendous disruption right now," said Schwartz, a retired Air Force officer who served as chief technology officer for Air Force enterprise networking.

"The world is being disrupted over and over again," says Tamara Schwartz, a retired Air Force officer-turned-York College professor.

She chose the name as a nod to the increasingly relevant issue of information manipulation. From her vantage point, information warfare can be as disruptive as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

“We live in a VUCA world — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — where the only constant is change; complexity is growing, and all the ambiguity this creates is making us feel anxious and uncertain" Schwartz said. "The world is being disrupted over and over again, and the risks previously categorized as ‘unknown unknowns’ have become commonplace. Everywhere we turn, Mount VUCA is in various stages of volcanic eruption.”

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That leaves Schwartz and her guests to explore the intersection of globalization, technology, business, ethics and social change — the very subjects she challenges her students to consider.

"When I was teaching this class, information warfare, last year," she explained, "we were learning a whole bunch of things that I just felt like they needed to be shared."

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There is no one intended audience for the podcast.

Instead, her hope is that listeners will come to it with an open mind.

"The way you get off the train of constant fighting is to understand how we as individuals, we as humans, are targeted," she said. "How to begin to pay attention to what’s going on so that we can think past, we need to start thinking like almost an outside view of things so we can be able to step back and calm down.”

Her guest list runs the gamut, from other college professors and students to various to outside experts, such as retired Pennsylvania State Police Major Ben Brooks, who joined her for a two-part episode on policing.

The WMD podcast is available on Apple podcasts and has 15 episodes out already.

Natilie McCallick, a York College cybersecurity management major, joined Schwartz's podcast as a freshman and again last semester, discussing issues surrounding technology and the sex industry.

"I think it is a really great opportunity to be involved in the conversation beyond just the classroom," she said. "It allows for students to develop communication skills in a more thorough format beyond just presenting to a class."

Renee Tacka, a marketing professor who previously worked in the news media, is intimately familiar with disruption. She joined the podcast to discuss the decline of the news industry.

“The podcast is a reality of how disruption and innovation impact businesses and the industry,” she said. “I think the topics discussed in the episodes along with the different speakers give depth about these issues that many people might not know about.”

The WMD podcast is available on Apple podcasts and has 15 episodes out already. You can check it out at: https://podcasts.apple.com/dk/podcast/weapons-of-mass-disruption/id1572928802

— Ulices Samaniego is a senior communications major at York College of Pennsylvania.

York College students, from left, Breanna Hoffner, Ulices Samaniego and Chris Hulsart join a discussion during a presentation by Wallace McKelvey, managing editor of The York Dispatch, at the college Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. The Dispatch and York College are partnering in a journalism mentoring program. Bill Kalina photo