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Dennis Schmidt
Dennis Schmidt

Dennis Schmidt, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Security Officer, will retire effective April 1, after serving the University for more than 24 years.

Schmidt has overseen the Information Security and Identity Management teams since 2018. For the three years before his current job, Schmidt served as AVC for ITS’ Infrastructure & Operations division.

Before moving over to ITS, Schmidt worked for 18 years as Assistant Dean for Information Technology and as Director of the Office Information Systems for the School of Medicine.

Previous career as Navy pilot

Schmidt’s quarter of a century at Carolina was his second career. His first career was with the U.S. Navy, where he served as a pilot for 24 years.

“Living my childhood dream of being a pilot, while operating on the front lines of the Cold War and tracking Soviet submarines and warships, was very exciting and rewarding,” he said.

Rewarding and challenging work

“Working at UNC has also been very rewarding, but in different ways,” Schmidt said. Building security programs from the ground up has been challenging. “We literally had to change the culture, and that was very hard in the early days.” Also, he said, “instead of issuing orders like we did in the military, here you must negotiate, educate, encourage and convince people to do things more securely.”

There was much pushback. When Schmidt was implementing the first password policy, a faculty member sent him an email stating, “If this were a private company, I would FIRE you! And, if I ever see you in the hall, I will flip you off!” Schmidt took the comment in stride and used that phrase in future security presentations to illustrate that people resist change.

“But when I look back, I see that we have come so very far over the years,” he said.

‘Steadfastly safeguarded’ information

Schmidt and his teams have “steadfastly safeguarded both the University’s information and our own throughout,” said J. Michael Barker, Ph.D., who is the University’s Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. Schmidt “has been the consummate professional, caring supervisor, incident commander, and valued colleague, to his teams, to his colleagues in ITS, and to scores of people and programs across the institution,” Barker said.

Key accomplishments

As for accomplishments, Schmidt cited several that readily come to mind.

“I think my most impactful accomplishment was overseeing the migration to Office 365,” the suite of tools that Microsoft has since rebranded as Microsoft 365.

Recent good marks, he said, “on our ISO27002 maturity assessment is proof that UNC has matured significantly around information security. I am proud to have been a part of that effort.”

Schmidt also is gratified to have been associated with the professional IT teams in ITS and the School of Medicine. “The work that we have done to support critical research and the influence that we have had on the education of future generations of students has been very satisfying,” he said.

Family time, travel, drone flying

Schmidt and his wife, Marsha, plan to spend time with family and with their first grandchild, born in February. They also want to travel. In addition, Schmidt looks forward to having more time to fly his drones. Most of all, he wants to just sit back and enjoy his next phase of life.

Filling Schmidt’s position

ITS is working to identify an executive search firm to facilitate recruiting Schmidt’s successor.

In the interim, Mel Radcliffe, Manager of the Risk Team within the Information Security division, will serve as interim Chief Information Security Officer, leading the Information Security team until the next AVC and CISO begins work.

The Identity Management team, meanwhile, will be temporarily reassigned to report to ITS’ Ethan Kromhout, Director for Applications Infrastructure. During his long service to Carolina within ITS, Kromhout has been deeply engaged on identity management, information technology infrastructure, strategy, and architecture, among other IT specialties.

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