Dominic Saebeler deemed outstanding teacher by Spring '22 students

9/30/2022

Cassandra Smith

Many teachers leave an impression on their students. While some will never know their impact, others get the recognition they deserve. 

Dominic Saebeler, Senior Associate Director with The Grainger College of Engineering’s Information Trust Institute, was named on the students' list of excellent teachers in the Spring 2022 semester.  Saebeler teaches about cybersecurity and its importance to our society. 

Cybersecurity is something top of mind for many people. “Cyber risk and trust [are] everyone’s [issues] so everyone should be actively involved in some form of cybersecurity,” said Saebeler. He went on to say while that topic used to be viewed as the sole responsibility of Information Technology departments, that is no longer the case. “Now organizations are realizing that a shockingly high percentage of all breaches involve some form of human error. In many cases, the contributing human does not even realize they played a role in a breach.” Saebeler said all members of a team should be mindful of their actions, including being careful about links in emails and using tools properly to ensure cyber safety. 

The idea that cybersecurity is everyone’s issue is just one of the areas Saebeler covers in his courses. The topic is a vast one, which he said can make it difficult to narrow down material for a weekly 50-minute lecture. “There are core elements needed to understand cyber risk, as well as the various responses to it we refer to as cybersecurity, that are important to know. Since there is no way to cover everything, I attempt to balance nuance with broader themes.” He continued to say, “I also show them actual research and tactical elements that, when combined with real-world context, hopefully provide students with a new perspective on the space that also fosters some level of curiosity.” 

That curiosity is what Saebeler says he hopes students take away from his class if nothing else. “My goal is for the students to realize that this is a much more complicated and pressing issue than perhaps they might have thought. Ultimately, I want them to walk away more interested in the topic and reveal to them the complexity of the many challenges that are waiting for new solutions.” He continued to say, “These students are learning things that will uniquely position them to improve overall security directly or indirectly. My hope is that they realize, underneath all of the jargon, that real lives are impacted each moment by choices and a range of cyber risks and with that new awareness they make a choice. Either they choose to directly pursue a career solving these problems or at a minimum they make informed decisions in their selected career path that do not make the problems worse.” 

Now, this is not the first time Saebeler has been commended by his students. He said there is an importance in how students react to educators. “The reason I am in the room is because I am passionate about connecting with students in whatever way helps them gain better traction, foster interest or approach something in ways they might not have fully considered before.” He continued to say, “That newly gained ‘perspective,’ whether it comes from telling a story, discussing a case study, or simply explaining something complex by analogy or a more interesting way often provides the student something more useful to take away. I believe students appreciate that and they recognize it when it happens, which in turn likely informs their evaluation of teachers-typically in a positive way.” 

Saebeler’s roots run deep at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He said both he and his wife attended the university as well as both of their sons. He also taught a class at the U of I’s Springfield campus. That class addressed cyber risk impacts on businesses and overall risk management, according to his biography.