Ulku Clark

October 8, 2019

The coastal climate and a well-timed show of spring flowers deserve some credit for bringing Ulku Clark to UNCW, where the professor of information systems teaches future cybersecurity professionals how to help safeguard the nation’s information systems. 

The native of Turkey first came to the United States as a high school foreign exchange student in Dallas, Texas, and returned there to complete her graduate and doctoral degrees. But when she searched for a faculty position, Wilmington won her over. 

“Being from Istanbul, I really missed being on the coast while I was in Dallas and was actively looking for faculty positions that were at a coastal city,” Clark said. “Interviewing right when the azaleas were blooming made my decision very easy.” 

Clark, who is director of the UNCW Center for Cyber Defense Education, also oversees the cybersecurity minor. She may owe her career choice to a childhood penchant for solving puzzles. 

“Even as a child, I was always interested in puzzles,” she said. “The majority of cybersecurity professionals enjoy challenges that require problem solving and analytical thinking – skills this field requires.” 

Clark was instrumental in creating the cyber defense center and in getting UNCW recognized by as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, a designation that will enable UNCW students to compete for federal cybersecurity jobs. She also helps students test their skills in competition. 

“I have two young children, but I consider the UNCW Cyber Defense Club as my first child,” said Clark. This year, with coaching from her and UNCW faculty colleagues Jeff Cummings and Geoff Stoker, the team qualified for the national competition in the 2019 Wicked6 Cyber Games. 

Next, Clark and her colleagues will reach out to the business community and the schools. 

The first Cybersecurity Awareness Colloquia, scheduled for Oct. 18, will bring cybersecurity experts to UNCW for presentations to regional professionals in the field. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a sponsor and will host the event. 

“Our other goal for this year is to initiate a project bringing cybersecurity education to the elementary school level,” Clark said. “One focus of the president’s Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce is on teaching cybersecurity awareness as early as possible, with the idea that whoever owns information in the future will be the world leader.” 

-- Tricia Vance