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Five Questions for: Dan Conway

May  09, 2011

Five Questions is a series of profiles of people at Augustana College. Dan Conway, associate professor of business administration, gives the answers today. If you know someone you'd like to see profiled, send his or her name and a note to

(Augustana Photo Bureau/Marla Alvarado Neuerburg)

1. You received your undergraduate degree from Augie. How was it as prep for Ph.D. work?

My preparation at Augie was excellent. I spent a lot of time studying in the library during my time as an undergrad, mostly because the house I was living in off campus wasn't heated. But my time spent staying warm really paid off, because when I applied to graduate school at Indiana University (the No. 1 quantitative methods program in the country at that time), I was one of 21 out of 1,500 who applied to be admitted to the program.

I don't think I realized until much later in my professional life just how powerful my Augustana experience was. Years ago, I was making a presentation at a United Nations workshop on human trafficking. I was a technical expert in how identities were stolen from systems and underground markets for identities. The United Nations was trying to determine if an identity was a fundamental human right. The term "identity" is used very differently in different cultures. Had I not understood how the Chinese understood identity, and interpretations of the religions and society of India, as well as identity in other cultures, it would have been a meaningless interchange.

2. What is different since you were here as a student in the '80s?

The opportunities for students to participate in learning beyond the classroom are much better now than when I was a student here. I can think of three specific features of today's Augustana experience that we didn't enjoy back in the '80s:

  1. Study abroad. I think we had a study abroad program in Ecuador, but now the college offers study abroad opportunities all over the world.
  2. The monthly convocation series brings in speakers from around the world to share perspectives that students may have not previously considered.
  3. The facilities. The Tredway Library wasn't here when I was a student. The old library was heated, so that was a plus for me, but it wasn't nearly the facility the Tredway Library is for today's Augustana students.

3. What is your project with John Deere on cloud-based computing?

I am working with a group called "enterprise architecture" at John Deere. They are working on ways to use the data collected from the microprocessor aboard hundreds of thousands of Deere machines working in fields all over the world. Because it collects so much data, a combine operating in a field knows more about the future of the world's food supply than any commodity futures analyst at Goldman Sachs.

4. Would you consider yourself a cyber security futurist?

I think I am more like a cyber security pragmatist. My work in this area is on developing ways to more pragmatically measure and report on information security risks. My colleagues and I are working on ways to make cyber security more of a science and less of a scare tactic.

The cyber security industry of today is much like the insurance industry of 100 years ago. Back then, the insurance industry enjoyed the advantage of information asymmetry — the fact that they always had more information than their customers when it came to things like their probable lifespan. They often used this information advantage to leverage their customer into purchasing insurance products and services that were highly profitable for the company but not always tailored to their customer's actual insurance needs.

5. What are you reading right now?

My father was an Army intelligence officer, and I think his work inspired my fascination with mathematics of code breaking. I have two books on my reading list, The American Black Chamber by Herbert O. Yardley and a biography about Yeardley titled , The Reader of Gentleman's Mail by David Kahn. Yardley led an organization called MI-8 during World War I. It was a joint operation between the Army and the Department of State and was the nation's first professional code-breaking agency.