Brandeis GPS Blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Author: epulizzi

Faculty Spotlight: Ross Morrone

a family of five huddle together and smile at the cameraFaculty member Ross Morrone teaches courses in both the Strategic Analytics and Digital Marketing and Design MS programs. Ross is passionate about sharing his professional experience with students to give them a unique perspective on marketing, analytics, and more. He earned his MS in Computer Information Systems from Youngstown University. Ross has personal marketing ventures that include his podcast This is Marketing and a YouTube channel to document his family’s summer camping adventures.

What led you to the marketing field?

I started my career in 2006 as a web developer at Youngstown State in Ohio. It might be surprising, but I have no formal education in marketing. At that time the Internet was moving faster than any marketing office could keep up with and I saw opportunities to immerse myself into new trends and technologies that were keeping pace. I wouldn’t say I led myself into the marketing field as much as I would say that it grabbed ahold of me. I fell in love with the idea that through design, marketing, advertising and branding I could help connect customers in a meaningful way to whatever any business was selling.  

What industry trend is currently exciting you?

The focus on data! Data rules the world and I’m excited that there is this trend in higher education that is focused on programming around helping to create professionals that understand how that data impacts everything from marketing to business operations. The challenge is creating teams that can share that data between one another to help improve those operations in a strategic way. 

What are your best hopes for the students in your courses?

My hope when I started teaching was to bring my own professional experiences to my courses and give students a practical understanding of how marketing works. Over the years, I got to see those ah-ha moments in the discussions where I knew they were taking my lessons and applying them to their own careers. At the end of the day, I teach because I believe through my own career wins and losses that I have experience that will help others. I want every student to walk away after 10 weeks with ideas that will help them in their own careers – the best part is I get to see this all the time. It’s really rewarding! 

Any advice for students or alumni who are job searching or preparing for a marketing job search in the near future?

Do not settle on one idea of what marketing is. Marketing is 1,000 different things that make up the whole. Read about new trends, think innovatively and try everything you can. I’ve failed over and over with marketing ideas, not landing a client I wanted to or investing in a campaign that did not turn out well – and I still do all the time. It’s through that process I have a better understanding of why and what needs to be done differently to be successful for whatever business I am working with. It’s easy to feel like you have imposter syndrome in marketing when a marketing strategy doesn’t pan out the way you thought it would, but if you are willing to learn from it you will continue to flourish in your career. 

What is a fun fact about you that Brandeis GPS community members may not already know?

My wife, Steph, and I manage a YouTube channel (@smorervfun) that focuses on following us around when we camp with our kids in the summer. It’s our second YouTube channel that we have (the other is @RandomReviewsHowTos) that we are hoping to monetize next year. Is this a cheap marketing plug? You betcha! But it’s a great way for us to capture those moments with our kids and have others follow along, plus, we have those videos to watch forever. We’ve also made a lot of friends that we get to regularly see at campgrounds that have found us through YouTube and it’s awesome to have that community on the trails! 


For more information on the Strategic Analytics MS, the Digital Marketing and Design MS, or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Opportunities for Clinicians in Search of Change

Man stands in front of stone wall and smiles into camera

Jon Azzariti, Program Chair of Health Informatics MS

Jon Azzariti was a recent guest of our Lunch and Learn series, where he gave a talk, “Journey Beyond the Bedside – Exciting Opportunities for Clinicians.” A nurse by trade, Azzariti is the program chair of the Master of Science in Health Informatics at Brandeis GPS, and a Senior Patient Safety Manager at athenahealth.

Azzariti first got involved in Health Informatics when he joined a committee for informatics during his time at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he later began working part of the time as an informatics analyst. 

During his talk, Azzariti explained that clinicians are leaving the bedside for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is burnout, due to COVID, yes, but also the fact that healthcare is a physically and emotionally demanding profession. This was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Azzariti added, “I’m a firm believer that burnout is often due to institutional-systemic failures, not personal failures. Folks are asked to do more today with fewer resources.”

He went on to explain that there are other opportunities that exist for folks in these professions if they are looking for a change of pace. This is a topic Azzariti is passionate about. “I’m here to say – there are so many jobs outside of bedside care where you can put your clinical mindset to work and still make a difference.” 

illustrated image of doctor with the title "Near and long-term opportunities" at the top, and subtitles "user experience & design, patient safety, health analytics, health informatics, quality, sales & clinical consulting" surrounding the doctor

These opportunities allow professionals to use their experience and be innovative. Among these opportunities are careers in Health Informatics, Health Analytics, and User Experience and Design. Azzariti believes that “All three of these areas can be hard to recruit for and clinicians can sometimes have a considerable advantage.”

He also encourages people to think about their skillset and desired work environment. “You can also find the right combination for you,” he notes. “For instance, I currently work in patient safety, but it’s really an interesting cross section between patient safety and informatics.

For folks looking to change their career who want to hone their skills, Azzariti says that “Brandeis can help you get to where you want to go.”

He specifically highlights our master’s program in User-Centered Design, along with our master’s certificate in Healthcare Analytics.

Azzariti’s final advice was to make a change if you are feeling burnt out. “If you work in healthcare and are needing a change, there are other options that exist.”


Attend an info session this fall to learn more about the degrees that Brandeis GPS offers, or join us for an upcoming Lunch and Learn featuring guest speakers from various industries starting in January. 

Q&A with Steve Dupree

man smiles into camera

Steve Dupree, Program Chair of Digital Marketing and Design MS

Steve Dupree, program chair of the Digital Marketing and Design MS, has more than a decade of experience helping startups across multiple industries achieve $1B+ valuations through digital marketing and tactical customer acquisition. After receiving an MBA from Stanford University, he dabbled in venture capital before exiting to build companies again. Steve continues to invest in and advise promising entrepreneurs in his free time. In addition, Steve did his undergraduate degree at Brandeis – Go Judges! 

What led you to a career in digital marketing and design?

After graduating from Brandeis with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics, I sort of stumbled into digital marketing. At that time, few people knew and no one told me that math and science would be critical for the emerging field of digital marketing. It turned out to be a fun path: digital marketing is an interdisciplinary field utilizing math, economics, psychology, design, computer science, writing, communication and engineering. You use all sides of the brain.

What emerging trends in the field are currently exciting you?

One emerging trend that excites me is the uptick in companies trying to democratize personal data and give control back to individuals. In the past two decades, a handful of well-known companies have dominated marketing channels and been opaque about which data is collected and how it is used. I hope this is starting to change so that we can provide more value to consumers, reduce misinformation and level the playing field when it comes to folks having access to opportunities such as online job postings.

Do you have any tips or tricks for Brandeis GPS community members who are pursuing a job search in digital marketing and design currently or planning one soon in the near future?

When pursuing a job search in digital marketing and design, don’t just apply cold through company websites or portals such as Indeed or LinkedIn Jobs. For hiring managers, it’s difficult to surface you among dozens or hundreds of resumes if they don’t know you. Try to identify the hiring manager(s) and find a mutual contact to introduce you. If that’s not possible, contact them directly with a brief email stating your interest and a relevant question or offer to help on a project. DMD candidates in particular might look at specialized job boards such as jobs.GrowthHackers.com. 

As program chair, what are your best hopes for Digital Marketing and Design students and alumni?

My hope is for you to find a product, service or cause that you truly believe in and use your digital marketing and design skills to scale it up. Most organizations, whether they are for-profits, nonprofits, universities, governments or other institutions have some leaders at the top with really good ideas, but they don’t always know how best to implement those ideas. They need our help. They need people like us who can, for example, take complicated concepts and deliver them to mainstream audiences in meaningful ways. Some orgs prioritize marketing more than others. If yours doesn’t appreciate what you do or lacks the culture to grow, then find another one that nurtures you!

What is a fun fact that Brandeis GPS community members may not already know about you?

I’ve gotten really into board games over the past five years. Some of the games I kickstarted back in 2017 are still arriving and I don’t have space for them! I want to reduce the friction to discovering, learning and playing new tabletop games and there are a few pathways that look interesting. I’m open to exploring other perspectives and exchanging ideas about it.


For more information about the Digital Marketing and Design program or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Brandeis GPS Sponsors UXPA Boston Annual Conference

Three people stand behind a table with tall Brandeis University signs on either side

From left to right: Director of Admissions Christie Barone, Brandeis GPS Alumni Craig Cailler, and Assistant Director of Partnership Engagement Michaela Henry

Last week, Brandeis GPS sponsored UXPA Boston’s annual conference. The event was a day-long, in person conference featuring networking opportunities, professional development sessions, and several panels and keynote speakers about different topics in the industry.

Our own User-Centered Design (UCD) faculty and board members were integral to the success of the day. UCD faculty member Bob Thomas is President of UXPA Boston. He kicked off the day with a welcome address, and later hosted a group mentoring session. The chair of the UCD program, Eva Kaniasty, was featured on the panel “Design of Design Education,” along with program board members Chris Hass and Lou Susi. 

Four people sit in a row of chairs on a stage, one speaking into a microphone

“Design of Design Education” Panel at UXPA Boston | From left to right: Jason Reynolds, Amy Heymans, Eva Kaniasty, and Chris Hass

Chris Hass is on the board of UXPA Boston as well.

Lou Cimaglia, a Brandeis GPS Lunch and Learn speaker, also gave a talk titled “Content Isn’t A Word: A Team Approach to UX Writing.” His Lunch and Learn – register here! – will be this Thursday, October 20 at 12pm.


For more information on the User-Centered Design program or any other GPS programs, visit our website.

Of reasonable security and other mythical creatures

The blue light from the screen of a half-open laptop lights up the keyboard

Written by: Alain Marcuse, Brandeis GPS Faculty

Imagine you are responsible for cybersecurity at your company. Your mission is to support the business, but you’re among the 90% of security leaders who believe they are falling short in addressing cyber risk, according to the 2021 Security Priorities study by Foundry. You are well aware that threats continue to evolve faster than your budget and/or resources; according to the same study, 54% of CISOs expect no increase at all in their budget next year. 

Against this backdrop, cybersecurity threats are certainly not standing still. According to PwC’s 2022 Global Digital Trust Insights report, more than 50% of organizations expect a surge in reportable incidents, over the 2021 rate. In short, the threat landscape continues to grow more rapidly than the resources available to you. 

But the challenge is not only a “simple” matter of balancing resources against threats. Cybersecurity is an increasingly regulated field, governed by sectoral laws such as HIPAA or industry standards such as PCI DSS, state laws such as in Massachusetts or New York, and even extra-territorial laws such as the European Union’s GDPR. Insurance companies are increasingly imposing their own requirements as well, in order to better manage underwriting risk.

In short, you need to make sure security doesn’t interfere with the business, or slow it down; but your primary responsibility is to maintain the organization’s security, in a context where the threats keep increasing, regulations keep multiplying, but the budget made available to you remains flat. 

You are expected to maintain “reasonable security”, but how do you define that, let alone achieve it? What’s deemed reasonable can well be in the eye of the beholder, and also changes over time. Technology evolution also requires updating the concept of what’s reasonable; what made sense in 2012 does not necessarily make sense in 2022. Consider something as simple as password length. PCI DSS 3.2.1, a standard released in 2018 and which still governs security requirements at merchants that use credit cards, requires passwords to be 7 characters long. In 2022, it is estimated that such weak passwords can be cracked within 7 seconds. Is this “reasonable?” If a breach happens, how will you answer “how could you let this happen?”

The key to resolving this challenge is to regularly take the time to take stock of the threat landscape, and the security program’s ability to confront it, by means of a formal risk assessment – whether conducted internally or by an external party. While most security teams are often stretched simply keeping up with day-to-day challenges, it is important to take the time to look at the broad picture and ensure security strategy and tactics are still aligned to the threats, regulations, and business requirements at hand. A risk assessment will also help with prioritizing what initiatives will be undertaken and why, and what risks will be deemed acceptable, making the program more defensible when discussing it with other executives, the Board, or regulators. 

While regular risk assessments provide a frame of reference to enable an answer to the “reasonableness” question, it is important to remember that the reality is that all security programs will fail, in one way or another, sooner or later. Cybersecurity is a form of asymmetric warfare where the enemy is typically better equipped and less constrained than the defenders. As a result, two key elements must be prioritized: defense in depth, and incident response. 

If you have received a breach notification from a company you work with, you will undoubtedly have noticed that the breach was always the result of a “sophisticated” attack, possibly leveraging a “zero-day” vulnerability. By definition, a “zero-day” vulnerability is one for which no patch currently exists. As of mid-2022, 18 such vulnerabilities came to light just this year. Given the near-certainty that some attack vectors will succeed, implementing a defense-in-depth strategy will help minimize the damage, in a cybersecurity version of James Reason’s “Swiss cheese model” metaphor in describing failure of complex systems.

While a defense-in-depth strategy can help minimize the damage, damage will almost certainly happen at some point; it is here that a well-developed incident response program matters most. This is really not dissimilar to good crisis management practice in any other discipline; a well-prepared, well-rehearsed plan for managing and communicating about a cybersecurity incident will go a long way towards mitigating damage, including reputational damage. 

The concept of “reasonable security” may well be an elusive beast, given it can be subjective and/or defined differently depending on the entity or circumstances in which the reasonableness question is answered. But a security program structured on the foundation of regular risk assessments, deploying a well-considered strategy of defense in depth, and supported by a properly-rehearsed incident response plan, will be more likely to be perceived as meeting a “reasonableness” standard.


Alain Marcuse teaches Cloud Security at Brandeis University, and is the Chief Information Security Officer at Validity Inc.

For more information about online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Brandeis GPS Sponsors Events at Boston Fintech Week 2022

Two men smile and shake hands with a screen reading "Brandeis" in the background

Panelist Sasidhar Sista and Professor Ahmad Namini greet one another before the panel “Global Fintech Spotlight.” Photo by Ashley McCabe.

Last week, Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies sponsored Boston Fintech Week, hosted by Fintech Sandbox. The three-day event centered on panels and keynote speakers exploring the intersection of finance, technology, and various other industries like healthcare, education, banking, and more.

Brandeis GPS hosted two events in partnership with Brandeis International Business School. The first was a panel, Global Fintech Spotlight, moderated by Ahmad Namini, Professor of the Practice of Business Analytics at Brandeis University’s International Business School. Panelists engaged about the current state of the industry and where they see potential for growth. The panelists included:

  • Tal Sharon, Managing Partner at Equitech Ventures and President at FinTech-Aviv, the Israeli FinTech Association
  • Micah Sabovik, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Marketing at MentorWorks Education Capital
  • Sasidhar Sista, Co-Founder of GradRight Inc.
  • Amitabha Sinha, Pentation Analytics
Two men sit in front of an audience having a conversation

Eric Rosengren and Stephen Cecchetti speak to a full audience during their event “A Conversation on Central Bank Digital Currencies.” Photo by Ashley McCabe.

The second sponsored event was A Conversation on Central Bank Digital Currencies, featuring Eric Rosengren, Visiting Professor at the MIT Golub Center for Finance and Policy and the former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Stephen Cecchetti, the Rosen Family Chair in International Finance at Brandeis International Business School. The pair discussed personal and economic benefits of using a digital currency.

Brandeis University hosted a reception to cap off a successful week. The events presented opportunities to make valuable connections with others in the industry, and many fruitful discussions were had. 

For more information on the Digital Innovation for FinTech program or any other GPS programs, visit our website.

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