Zest for Lifelong Learning Is Key to Success for UMUC’s Frank Kesterman

Kesterman, a member of UMUC’s cybersecurity faculty, received 2018 higher education and finance Lifetime Achievement Awards from Marquis Who’s Who.

Throughout his career, UMUC adjunct professor Frank Kesterman said he has wanted only one thing—to be at the cutting edge of what is happening.

When he joined the Navy after graduating from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, he volunteered to learn how to become a nuclear power engineer as part of Admiral Hyman Rickover’s nuclear Navy.

“I was excited about the newest thing you could learn about,” he said. “At the Merchant Marine Academy, I wrote a thesis paper on the Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine to travel under the polar icecap in August 1958, so I applied for and got into the nuclear power program.”

From Adm. Rickover, he said he learned about the importance of zero defects and quality assurance, that any error could cost the lives of many people.

Kesterman, now 82, has a resume that could fill two or three lifetimes. He worked in the upper reaches of the United States Treasury Department as director of risk assessment, negotiated one of the largest shipping acquisitions for Puerto Rico, built a container port in Oman, advised governments in nations that were newly formed after the Soviet Union’s collapse—including in Russia and Ukraine—trained people in Kazakhstan, who had never been inside a bank, to be bank examiners, and helped launch the Department of Homeland Security.

Today, he is a professor in UMUC’s cybersecurity program and teaches the CYB 670 “capstone course” for the Master of Science in Cybersecurity degree. For two years, 2015 to 2017, he also was UMUC’s manager of Cybersecurity Employer and Industrial Relations.

“In the broad picture, nuclear power is like cybersecurity, but they are 50 years apart,” Kesterman said.  “It’s the new challenge.  When I started my career, I looked for the newest exciting thing that was going on. I had this urge to learn all the time.  Now, I really enjoy teaching, not so much in transferring my information to the students, but what I can learn from the students, who are extremely bright people.”

Kesterman at the FBI’s Citizen’s Academy, Quantico, Virginia

Kesterman’s path to cybersecurity began with the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  At the time, he was designing and teaching management classes as part of a military MBA-style program at the National Defense University, the military’s elite higher education institution in Washington. But after 9-11 his focus changed overnight to teaching about homeland security.

There was a sudden shift, like the moon shot,” he said, referring to the transformation in the United States during the space race with the Soviet Union.  “We had to build a homeland security capability. We worked out the issues, such as how to work with 22 different agencies, how to align the communications and the missions. The people I taught became the managers in homeland security.”

That’s when he began teaching homeland security courses at UMUC. As the university developed a new cybersecurity program, Kesterman was at the forefront.

“UMUC was one of the first schools to do it,” he said. “They were rebuilding so many new sections so fast that anyone who had any notion of homeland security was pressed into service.  Do you want to teach a course? I stepped in two days before a course started. They had twice as many students as they had teachers, so I jumped in kind of cold turkey. I learned my way through the first course.”

Knowing how homeland security works is a benefit to teaching cybersecurity, he said.  Cybersecurity is still under the Department of Homeland Security, and understanding emergency management is essential.  If there is a major cybersecurity attack, it will create an emergency management problem. To gain more knowledge on infrastructure protection, he joined “Infragard,” the FBI’s private sector, all-volunteer organization that shares information with the public. He was elected “Infragard” vice president for Washington from 2008 to 2015.

Kesterman has taught more than 100 semester hours at UMUC since 2007, and he is considered an expert in cybersecurity governance, law, ethics, the psychology of hackers and ever-changing technology tools and threats.

Just last year, he wrote a new course for UMUC’s Accounting Department: “Cybersecurity Risk Management for CPAs and Accountants.” It includes the growing threats of what is now known as the “Internet of Things.”

Kesterman with his wife, Iris Joan

He has earned several awards for his work, including a Hammer Award for Reinventing Government from Vice President Al Gore, and he is listed in Who’s Who directories around the world, including Who’s Who in America. In 2018, he received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Marquis Who’s Who in two fields, higher education and finance.

Along the way, he never stopped learning, Kesterman said.  He holds an education doctorate from George Washington University, and his dissertation on student debt—aided by his work at the Treasury Department—is still cited in academic studies on five continents. He has an MBA from American University and holds CPA and CISA licenses. He studied Middle Eastern languages and cultures at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies in preparation for his work building the port in Oman.

“Lifelong learning is reality,” Kesterman said. “I will do it, even if it costs me to do it. It is worth it.”