What does it take to build a successful career in physical security? Thanks to professors like Alan Saquella, students in Prescott’s College of Business, Security and Intelligence (CBSI) have all (or at least most) of the answers by the time they graduate.
A former polygraph examiner and the 16-year Director of Security and Investigations at Cox Communications, Saquella has a wealth of knowledge that he loves to share with Embry-Riddle students. His expertise ranges from investigating corporate crimes like embezzlement to designing complex and effective security systems for corporate buildings. He is a frequent contributor to magazines in the security industry and often serves as an expert for journalists in the field.
He is also a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Certified Polygraph Examiner (CPE). He holds a Bachelor of Science in Police Science with a Protective Services emphasis and a Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Administration from Northern Arizona University.
Saquella brings this experience to bear in innovative classes like SIS 352: White Collar Crime, where he teaches students how to recognize and respond to criminal cases like Enron.
Recently, Professor Saquella sat down with us to answer a few questions for the next installment of the CBSI “Spotlight on...” series.
What initially drew you to Embry-Riddle?
I first became acquainted with Embry-Riddle's CBSI while working with the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) 11 years ago. The connection occurred when I was paired with a senior in the college to mentor. The mentorship program established by ASIS was a pilot program to connect veterans and/or students with professionals in industry and government to create a pathway into the security career field. I mentored the student for one year. During that time, I was also invited to Prescott to speak at the student chapter of ASIS and learned about the program and its students. I was so impressed with my mentee, the college and the program that I hired and placed the student into my Global Security Operations Center as a security/intelligence analyst upon graduation.
Fast forward to 2021. I took an early retirement from my career in corporate security and planned to consult. In the process, I reached out to Dr. Foley — the chair of the CBSI department, who I had known since the mentorship experience — to inquire about any leads that he might have for consulting. While he did not know of any, he did ask if I would be interested in teaching as an adjunct professor in Fall 2021. I agreed and taught SIS 342: Interview Techniques and Tactics. Midway through the semester, I was asked to teach a full load in the spring, to which I gladly agreed.
Having taught at other colleges and universities around the country in adjunct capacities, I noticed that Embry-Riddle is by far the most student- and teacher-oriented university. The culture at Embry-Riddle strongly aligns with my philosophy of giving back to the next generation. It helps that we also have a 95% placement rate. For me, my passion goes beyond the classroom. I call on my professional network to line up mentorships, internships and jobs for students in the college. I find no greater passion than helping students get excited and prepared for a career in security.
What are your favorite topics to teach and research?
I am most enthusiastic about teaching applied classes, specifically Interview Tactics and Security Investigations, as these two courses allow me to build real cases into the curriculum. Sharing actual investigations I handled, along with textbook examples, helps improve the process of learning and increases student retention. While I enjoy all the courses taught, the applied classes are my favorite.
As for research, I prefer to focus my writing, speaking and presenting on prevention and mitigation strategies related to counterproductive and illegal behaviors in the workplace and society. Having spent many years as a polygraph examiner, I know how important it is to screen out undesirable applicants, along with properly eliciting truthful and factual information from individuals in criminal and other situations. What I research is published in security industry magazines and periodicals, and also placed on my LinkedIn profile.
What should students know about the future of the security industry?
I see the next 3-5 years as an exciting time for new graduates for two reasons: 1) The marketplace needs the skills we provide to fill all the vacancies that exist, and 2) With the outcome of working from home due to COVID, the marketplace has identified vulnerabilities that info-sec and corporate security specialists will need to solve for. As an example, we saw a 100% increase in employee-related fraud when employees worked from home, while our cyber peers observed a 60% increase in insider issues as well. The conclusion is that those employees who had the propensity to do deviant acts felt more secure doing them from home. This again creates more opportunities for our students when they graduate.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to today’s college students?
Students who want to enter corporate security and investigations should take advantage of a few things. Take the applied courses we offer. If a student does not go into a government or law enforcement career, the applied skills they will gain will open doors in the corporate sector. Once in, the student will have opportunities via company paid certificate, training and educational and tuition reimbursement programs to further their skill development.
Prior to graduation, I highly recommend that each student takes career internships, whether during the summer or while attending classes. A new trend and great resume builder is being mentored by a professional in the field. If corporate security and investigations is of interest, join ASIS as a student member, connect with professionals in the field on LinkedIn and ask someone to mentor you. If you need help, come see any of the professors in CBSI who come from business and industry, and ask for help. We will never turn you away. Your success is our reward. Every professional in this career path who I meet wants to help the next generation enter this field. We owe it to our careers and each student at Embry-Riddle.
What are your interests outside of Embry-Riddle?
For the last 25 years, while working in my previous career, I regularly mentored one to two college students per year to assist them with finding internships and navigating a career into corporate security and investigations. I have stayed in contact with many on LinkedIn and enjoy watching them excel in their careers. What I think you will find out about me and many of my colleagues is that we do not like to boast or pat ourselves on the back. Though I have had great achievements in my industry and career, my best ones, and the ones that I am most proud of are, those where I have helped aspiring students get into this career field.
A portion of this interview was previously conducted by Kiara Bean.