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Majors & Degrees

Maj. Gen. Gaedecke kicks off Distinguished Speaker Series

October 24, 2023

Dakota State University hosted Major General David Gaedecke (USAF, Retired), as the inaugural guest of The Beacom Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Dr. Mary Bell, Dean of The Beacom College of Computer & Cyber Sciences, created this series to inspire and educate students and faculty by introducing them to people who can share about the impact and challenges of careers in cyber-related fields.

When she thought about who her first guest should be, she immediately thought of Maj. Gen. Gaedecke. He is a graduate of the program in which she taught before coming to DSU, and she knew how effectively he connects with students from his previous engagements with the Joint Advanced Warfighting School, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University.

In her opening words introducing Maj. Gen. Gaedecke, Bell stated that the mission and purpose of Dakota State University is to produce graduates who are ready to integrate and thrive in the workforce. She added that a full education includes thought-provoking events such as this one.

After the event, she said, “Major General Gaedecke’s background and expertise aligns with Dakota State University’s mission and education objectives. As I looked across the audience while he was speaking and answering questions, I saw a captive audience with heads nodding as he captured their attention and imagination.”

Maj. Gen. Gaedecke, recently retired from the U.S. Air Force as the Vice Commander of the Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) and was previously the Director of Cyberspace Operations at The Pentagon. In his role as Vice Commander, he led almost 50,000 personnel who conduct worldwide operations by delivering electromagnetic warfare capabilities, multisource intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance products, applications, capabilities, and resources. The 16th Air Force also builds, extends, operates, secures, and defends the Air Force portion of the Department of Defense global network.

In addition to this high-level leadership experience, Maj. Gen. Gaedecke was able to connect with the students in a personal way. After an introductory presentation about his extensive career and life experiences, DSU students spent nearly an hour asking questions on a variety of topics, from politics to cyber, leadership, and business.

Angela Slattery asked what makes a great leader; another asked what the best piece of life advice he received was, while another asked what some of the biggest challenges were leading such a large organization. Another question was about the skills and qualities he looked for in potential hires.

Other students asked more specific questions about current real-world scenarios.

DSU graduate student Nathan Ord asked about the growing tech and cybersecurity trade war between the U.S. and China, which has led to recent restrictions on hardware and edge computing,

Connor Starrett asked about the willingness of U.S. adversaries to disregard ethics and laws in armed conflict, such as hiring private citizens or contractors to carry out cyber-attacks, and how that could change the U.S. strategic advantage in the cyber realm. Starrett is a DSU student and Air Force ROTC cadet who has been selected to serve in the U.S. Space Force after graduation.

Maj. Gen. Gaedecke gladly shared his experience and insights with the students during the Q&A period and spent additional time afterward visiting students and faculty and answering more questions.

After the event, Maj. Gen. Gaedecke stated, "I was really impressed by the thoughtful and relevant questions from the students and faculty. Beacom is clearly growing the next generation of Cyber leaders."

In addition to speaking to students and faculty, Maj. Gen. Gaedecke had breakfast with three DSU AFROTC students, Connor Starrett, Trevor Hatch, and Emily Helgeson. He also recorded a DSU Cyberology podcast with hosts Jennifer Burris, Kanthi Narukonda, and Jason Jenkins to be published at https://dsu.edu/Marketing/cyberology-podcast.html when production is complete. The podcast highlights his experience in cyber operations. Before departing campus, he toured the DSU MadLabs and Applied Research Laboratory to see and learn about all the great applied faculty and student research occurring at DSU.

The second Dean’s Speaker event will be held in March during DSU’s Research Week and DakotaCon.

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