Ambassador discusses cyberspace, digital policy during UTulsa visit - The University of Tulsa
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Ambassador discusses cyberspace, digital policy during UTulsa visit

Seated person speaking into microphoneNathaniel C. Fick, who is finishing his first year as the inaugural U.S. ambassador at large for cyberspace and digital policy, said Thursday that his new bureau at the U.S. Department of State is working to address technology diplomacy around the world.

“Technology is changing every aspect of our lives. It’s changing how we learn. It’s changing how we access health care. It’s changing how we work,” he said. “It is also changing or affecting every aspect of our foreign policy.”

Fick spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and cyber entrepreneurs during a wide-ranging discussion at The University of Tulsa. The UTulsa stop was part of a multiday visit in collaboration with Tulsa Innovation Labs.

Fick toured the on-campus National Computer Forensics Institute lab with Supervisory Special Agent Steven A. Baskerville and took time to meet with doctoral candidates and discuss their research.

He referred to UTulsa as a “top-notch” cybersecurity school and said Tulsa is recognized nationally as a new cyber hub. “Keep doing what you’re doing, because obviously it’s working,” he said.

People talking at the front of a lecture hallDuring a question-and-answer session with Professor Tyler Moore, director of TU’s School of Cyber Studies, Fick explained that his bureau is charged with addressing three major areas: cybersecurity policy; digital policy, including internet, cable, fiber, data centers, wireless networks and satellites; and critical and emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum and biotechnology. The bureau also covers the values-based and rights-respecting aspects of technology, ensuring U.S. diplomacy is infused with principles of digital freedom across all these areas.

“A majority of my time is spent on diplomatic engagement outside the U.S.,” Fick said. He is working to build coalitions to deter misbehavior in cyberspace and lead efforts at the United Nations to develop normative behaviors. “The tech portfolio in the U.S. government is probably the most important portfolio right now in the world, and we have it at an incredibly consequential time,” he said. “The work matters. We never wake up in the morning and wonder why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

In addition to growing the number of technology experts in U.S. embassies internationally, Fick is advocating for more tech workers at home. There are 400,000 unfilled information technology jobs in the United States today, he said, and “we need to have accessible pathways for people to get tech jobs.”

Prior to joining the State Department, Fick was a technology executive and entrepreneur.  He was CEO of the cybersecurity software company Endgame from 2012 through its acquisition by Elastic in 2019. Thereafter, he led Elastic’s information security business globally. Fick spent nearly a decade as an operating partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, working with management teams to build technology businesses. In 2018, Fast Company magazine named him one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” and Endgame was selected by Forbes as one of the “100 Best Cloud Companies in the World.”

The University of Tulsa’s School of Cyber Studies builds on a long history of excellence in computer science and cyber security. It is unique in that it draws upon the expertise of faculty from multiple disciplines appointed jointly. The University of Tulsa is designated as a National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence in both Research and Cyber Defense. UTulsa’s cybersecurity academic programs were ranked No. 23 nationally by U.S. News & World Report in 2022, tied with Harvard University and New York University. The school offers a bachelor of science in cyber security, a minor in cyber security and a doctorate in cyber studies, as well as an online master’s degree in cyber security.