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New leadership announced for Ridge College

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mercyhurst University today announced the appointment of three high-level personnel to lead its Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences into a new era of growth and innovation. 

“We are thrilled to welcome these three superbly qualified individuals, widely known as experts in their respective fields, whose wealth of experience and exemplary records of service will further elevate the global reputation of the Ridge College and enable us to continue our mission of producing the highest caliber graduates in the industry,” said Mercyhurst University President Michael T. Victor.

Former Pennsylvania Governor and the nation’s first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, after whom the Ridge College is named, said, “Mercyhurst University’s intelligence studies program enjoys a global reputation for world-class research, exceptional teaching and student outcomes. The construction of new cyber training facilities and today’s introduction of three new leaders make for a potent combination that will ensure Mercyhurst remains the vanguard of the field.” (SEE RELATED STORY: Mercyhurst announces $1 million investment in cyber program)

Taking the helm is Duncan E. McGill, Ph.D., Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), of Manassas, Virginia. He becomes the new dean of the Ridge College, replacing James Breckenridge, Ph.D., who recently joined the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) as provost. McGill has spent more than a decade in various academic and administrative leadership capacities at the National Intelligence University (NIU). Most recently, he served as associate dean of the NIU’s College of Strategic Intelligence.

Tapped to lead the Ridge College’s cyber initiatives is U.S. Navy Cyber Analyst Chad Griffin, whose expertise includes providing IT, cybersecurity and intelligence analysis to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Pacific Command. Griffin will oversee the operation of a new cyber lab, to be constructed in Hammermill Library, as part of a $1 million investment by Cleveland-based technology company MCPc.

Charged with growing the college’s data science program is M. Afzal Upal, Ph.D., former senior data scientist for Canada’s Department of National Defence, where he worked closely with intelligence analysts in the Canadian Armed Forces to develop tools to support their work.

Mercyhurst Provost Dr. David Dausey noted, “We are confident that each of these individuals will help to advance the strategic direction of the Ridge College in synergistic ways. They will help to expand our academic offerings and will be a tremendous resource for our students.”

Both the new Ridge College leadership and MCPc investment were announced on Tuesday, July 25, during a 10 a.m. news conference in the Center for Academic Engagement, home of the Ridge College.

Duncan E. McGill, Ph.D.

Dean of the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies & Applied Sciences

As associate dean of the National Intelligence University, College of Strategic Intelligence, in Washington, D.C., Duncan E. McGill was charged with overseeing the Master of Science program in Strategic Intelligence and the Bachelor of Science program in Intelligence, along with seven graduate certificate programs. He managed the academic, personnel, financial and administrative affairs of the college while communicating its vision and goals to the intelligence community, U.S. Department of Defense and the academic community.

His research focuses on science and technology issues affecting U.S. national security, among them cyber, weapons of mass destruction, emerging and disruptive technologies, and the IED capabilities in Iraq.

McGill is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, serving as a Nuclear and Counterproliferation Officer. He also held joint duty assignments outside the Army at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Over the years, his deployment and operations travel have taken him to more than two dozen countries, among them Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, Japan, Germany, the UK and Egypt.  

McGill earned his doctorate in Biological Defense from George Mason University, his Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University, a Master of Arts in Procurement Management from Webster University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri.  


Chad Griffin

Cyber Program Director

Since 2010, U.S. Navy Cyber Analyst Chad Griffin has provided technical and analytic support to cyberspace operations at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, which is a focal point for collaboration with other regional and global military commands, national agencies, allies and strategic partners.

In that capacity, Griffin provided guidance on cyber analysis, including trend analysis, forecasting and briefs to support daily requirements, situational awareness, and cyber-specific indications and warnings.

All told, Griffin has more than two decades of professional experience with computer information systems and technology, 14 years providing IT, cybersecurity and technical analysis to the U.S. Navy; and five years collaborating with U.S. Cyber Command on joint plans and operations.

He holds numerous civilian honors and awards from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy, including the latter’s Exemplary Achievement Award.  He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and International Business degree from George Washington University and, over the years, has earned more than a half dozen professional licenses and certificates.


M. Afzal Upal, Ph.D.

Data Science Program Director

For the past nine years, M. Afzal Upal has served as senior data scientist for Canada's Department of National Defence, working closely with intelligence analysts in the Canadian Armed Forces to develop tools to support their work.

He is skilled in machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that affords software applications more accuracy in predicting outcomes. Recent research involves leading a project to download millions of messages posted by users of various social media groups to learn about the shared beliefs of a population. The information can be used by intelligence analysts to better understand a population of interest.

He maintains extensive contacts in the data science industry and is widely published in the field. He was chair of the First International Workshop on Cognition and Culture, the 14th Annual Conference of the North American Association for Computational, Social, and Organizational Sciences and the AAAI-06 Workshop on Cognitive Modeling and Agent-based Social Simulation. He has held faculty positions at a number of universities, among them Dalhousie University in Canada, University of Toledo in Ohio, and Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

He earned his doctorate in Computer Science from the University of Alberta, Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Computer Science from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Punjab in Pakistan.

Also new this year to the intel team is Benjamin Baughman, Ph.D., a former detective and crime analyst with the Raleigh, North Carolina, Police Department, and an instructor in disciplines blending psychology and criminal justice.

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