New chief information security officer seeks to build bridges

Illustration of lock on a circuit board

Leo Howell will join the University of Oregon on Dec. 11 as the new chief information security officer following a national search.

Howell comes to the UO from North Carolina State University, where he served as director for information security risk and assurance. Originally a network engineer, Howell has also been the assistant director and information technology audit manager within the Internal Audit Division at NC State and in several other IT, audit and security roles within and outside of higher education.

Leo Howell“We are very excited to have Leo joining us here,” said Jessie Minton, vice provost for information services and chief information officer. “I believe Leo will be instrumental in our ongoing work to increase the maturity of IT security at the university.”

As the head of information security, Howell will be responsible for coordinating and implementing programs to protect digital information at the university and for raising awareness about cybersecurity among students, faculty and staff. He will report to Minton and will oversee the existing information security team in Information Services, the UO’s central information technology department.

“I am excited to join the UO family during this time of mounting cybersecurity challenges and opportunities facing higher education,” Howell said. “The protection of digital assets is everyone’s responsibility and I believe the UO community is ready to take on the challenge.”

Howell will be only the second chief information security officer at the university. He described his mission as empowering the university’s students, faculty and staff to do their work while taking the necessary steps to stop cybercriminals from disrupting that work or stealing sensitive data.

Maintaining an effective security program requires a diverse range of tools, including policies, processes, technical solutions and, most importantly, strong cross-campus partnerships and creative outreach ideas, Howell said. As one example at NC State, Howell empowered his team to implement a student-led “phishing fair,” allowing NC State students to learn about phishing, malware and other threats while playing carnival games with information security staff and other IT staff.

“Leo is not only a talented technical leader but is also a collaborator who has developed a track record of building partnerships to engage faculty, students and staff in the ongoing efforts to protect sensitive data and intellectual property,” said Minton, who thanked all those involved in the job search. “Information security is a critical component of our IT strategy and Leo will help take us to the next level.”

Howell received his bachelor’s degree in computer science and electronics from University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, and his master's degree in business administration from North Carolina State University. He is a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma international business honor society.

—By Nancy Novitski, University Communications