About the Center

Purpose and People

The Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education was created to address current and emerging needs in education and training and to promote greater awareness of issues that impact individuals and communities. Learn more about the Center's purpose and philosophy, as well as the individuals who help us to deliver on our mission.

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Mission & Vision


A premier source of advanced, practical and relevant interdisciplinary education, the Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education serves the needs of industries, government agencies, communities and individuals throughout the state of Ohio.  


The Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education will be a comprehensive source for leading-edge research, training and education related to public safety and cybersecurity, specifically serving as a place to:

  • Advance public safety and cybersecurity education.
  • Develop partnerships that increase awareness and advance education.
  • Address the convergence between public safety and cybersecurity education through an interdisciplinary approach.
  • Increase the number of individuals with the skills necessary to be employed in public safety and cybersecurity.
  • Collaborate with industry to solve the talent shortage in public safety and cybersecurity through education and training.

Message from the Executive Director

Welcome to the Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education. The creation of the center is a culmination and a beginning. It is a culmination of collaborative work between public safety and cybersecurity faculty and it is a beginning of many opportunities to collaborate in an interdisciplinary manner while also looking at the future of cybersecurity and public safety education. This cutting-edge Center includes innovative degree programs in both public safety and cybersecurity, partnership work that has been on-going in these fields, and seminar-style, non-credit offerings that can lead to a degree. The work of the Center will continue to rely on a broad array of faculty expertise and knowledge but also industry knowledge as it seeks to address the needs of the broadest array of learners. 

Jonathan McCombs, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Health & Public Administration

Board of Advisors

Lea Culver
President and CEO, Creek Technologies
Lisa Chambers
National Executive Director, TECH CORPS
Matt Curtin
Founder, Interhack
Kimberly Cocroft
Judge, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas
Ervan Rodgers
Chief Information Officer, State of Ohio
Fred Kauser
Fire Chief, Mifflin Township
Allen Perk
President, XLN Systems
David White
Battelle, Chief Information Officer
Anthony Wilson
Security Director, Columbus Metro Libraries
Robert Stewart
Assistant Director of Public Safety, Columbus City
Roni Burkes
Warden, Ohio Reformatory for Women
Zach Klein
Columbus City Attorney
Justin Root
Attorney, Dickinson Wright PLLC
Ned Pettus
Director of Public Safety

Meet the Team

Jonathan McCombs, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Jonathan McCombs is an educator, former police officer and investigator. An extensive career of over 20 years in public safety and higher education provided experience in narcotics investigations, intelligence analysis, anti-terror investigations, gun trafficking investigations, street patrol, campus law enforcement administration, higher education administration and advanced training. He holds a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice. His dissertation topic was a study of problem-based learning in law enforcement in-service training. As an industry expert in the field of law enforcement, problem-based learning and online learning, Dr. McCombs is currently the Dean of the College of Health & Public Administration at Franklin University. He has responsibility for multiple public safety undergraduate and graduate academic programs.

Kemal Aydin, Ph.D.
Program Chair, Information Technology

Kemal Aydin received his Ph.D. in Applied Computing from University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2009. He has worked at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for 3 years, then at the North American University for 5 years. He published “Unsupervised Learning Algorithms” books in 2016 by Springer. He received $15,000 grant from Microsoft for Machine Learning LAB. He has developed the following labs: Academia, ACM-ICPC, ACM-W, AI, Bioinformatics, Cybersecurity, Design, Drone, Industry, and Starter Lab. His research interests are biomedical signal processing, artificial neural networks, data mining and computational thinking. He loves coaching students on soft skills.

Todd Whittaker, Ph.D.
Department Chair, Computing Sciences & Mathematics

Todd Whittaker currently serves as the department chair for Computer and Information Sciences and program chair for Information Technology and Cybersecurity at Franklin University. He has more than 20 years experience in computer-related fields and has previously held positions as an associate professor at DeVry University, software engineer at Battelle Memorial Institute and UNIX systems administrator at the University of Akron. He has extensive knowledge of object-oriented programming languages, design patterns, development processes, systems administration, network security, software security, curriculum and technology education. Todd holds an MS in Computer Science and a PhD in Information Systems. Todd enjoys outdoor activities such as long distance running, hiking, and camping; spending time with his wife and children; and teaching in a small home group Bible study.

Chunbo Chu, Ph.D.
Program Chair, Computer Science

Chunbo Chu is the program chair of the B.S. in Computer Science and the program chair of the M.S. in Computer Science at Franklin University. He has been a lead faculty of Computer Science at Franklin University since July 2008. Dr. Chu received his bachelor's and master's degrees in Computer Science from Fudan University (Shanghai, China) in 1997 and 2000 respectively, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Wayne State University in 2008. Dr. Chu’s current interests include monitoring and predicate detection in distributed systems, synchrony, emergent internet technologies and computer science education.

Alex Heckman, Ph.D.
Department Chair, Public Administration

Alex Heckman is chair of the Department of Public Administration and chair and founder of the Public Administration programs at Franklin University. He received his Ph.D. in Public Policy and Management and MPA from The Ohio State University. Dr. Heckman’s research and professional presentations focus on ethical leadership, policy implementation, improving organizational performance, conducting high-quality teaching research, and the nature of good management and its impact on organizational performance. His research has been published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Management Review, and by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Dr. Heckman has extensive practitioner experience having served a 4-year term as a non-partisan elected school board member in one of the largest school districts in Ohio, worked as a manager and performance auditor for the Ohio Auditor of State, and as a non-partisan budget and policy analyst for the Ohio Legislature. He currently volunteers as a Guardian Ad Litem for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Franklin County and serves as a member Westerville City Council.

Chenelle Jones, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean, Community Engagement & Program Chair, Public Safety Programs

Chenelle Jones currently serves as Assistant Dean of Community Engagement and Program Chair for Public Safety Programs at Franklin University. Dr. Jones received her Ph.D. in the Administration of Justice from Texas Southern University in Houston. Her research interests include race and crime, policing, and juvenile delinquency. She is particularly interested in issues of police/community relations, disproportionate minority contact (DMC), mass incarceration, and the intersection of race and gender in the criminal justice system.

Dr. Jones currently serves as the national director of research for the Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy, a federally funded program designed to reduce social distance between police officers and at-risk minority youth. She has written numerous articles and book chapters on public perceptions of the police, race and the administration of justice. She is the co-editor of A Critical Analysis of Race and the Administration of Justice. She is a reviewer for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, and several academic journals including the Journal of Juvenile Justice, the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, and Race and Justice. She is a crime analyst for TV One’s hit show “For My Man.” She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Conley Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Visionary Award by Columbus City Council and the Create Columbus Commission. Dr. Jones is also a member of several community and professional organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the Create Columbus Commission, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the American Society of Criminology, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, and the Racial Democracy and Criminal Justice Network.

Bradley Watson, Ph.D.
Program Chair, Web Development

Bradley Watson is the program chair for Franklin University’s Information Systems and Web Development majors. Dr. Watson holds two undergraduate degrees and four graduate degrees (Library Science, English and Computer Science), including a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in English (Dissertation: A Computer-Based Barthesian Reader's Assistant: Xebra Rides Roland Barthes' Textual Network of Signifiers). Dr. Watson is completing his dissertation in Computer Science at Nova Southeastern University (Dissertation: Runtime Detection and Prevention of Attacks Enabled By Aspect-Oriented Programming Through the Application of the Information Flow Control Model).

Before joining Franklin University full time in the Fall of 2006, Dr. Watson held previously held positions as information technology division director and chief information officer for the Ohio Department of Aging and research scientist for OCLC (Online Computer Library Center, Inc). While at OCLC, Dr. Watson focused his research in the area of information retrieval algorithms and indexing approaches using natural language processing methodologies.

Joel Gardner, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean, Instructional Design

Joel Gardner is the Assistant Dean of Instructional Design at Franklin University where he leads a team of outstanding design, media, and assessment experts. He is also a faculty member in Franklin’s Doctor of Instructional Design Leadership program. He holds a Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences from Utah State University. As a practitioner and a scholar, Dr. Gardner publishes peer-reviewed scholarly articles related to human performance improvement, instructional design, project management, systematic decision-making and learning leadership.

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