Stuart Steiner to Receive the Trustees’ Medal

June 10, 2024

The Trustees’ Medal award is the university’s highest form of recognition for faculty achievement. Every year since 1978, the award has honored teaching excellence, significant contributions to scholarship and research, and accomplishments in the development of academic programs and curriculums. The award consists of a silver medallion and a $1,500 cash prize from the EWU Foundation.

This year’s Trustees’ Medal award winner is Stuart (Stu) Steiner, PhD, an assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering. In addition  to his work as an influential scholar and instructor, Steiner is the founder and director of EWU’s Center for Network Computing and Cybersecurity a nationally prominent cybersecurity program that has placed Eastern students at the forefront of international efforts to make digital technologies less vulnerable to attacks.

Steiner, who has served on the Eastern faculty for more than 20 years, has a reputation for operating an inclusive program that opens doors for all students. This commitment to the university and his “unwavering support” for students was also cited in multiple letters of support.

In a letter signed by more than 60 computer science students, Steiner was credited for significantly impacting their academic and personal development by providing tutoring, mentoring, clubs, competitions and other resources.

“His larger-than-life presence can be felt in every corner of the campus, and we have always known that we can turn to him with any concern, however big or small,” the letter says. “His invaluable advice and practical guidance have helped many of us, and our families, overcome numerous obstacles, from securing internships to receiving much-need support during difficult times.”

Jacqueline Coomes, interim vice provost and professor of mathematics, wrote that “Dr. Steiner has been integral to increasing student retention and success, and to increasing diversity in the CS (computer science) programs. His student evaluations are outstanding, and he was awarded ASEWU’s Faculty of the Year in 2022.”

Steiner’s long list of accomplishments includes developing the new cybersecurity degrees and earning EWU accreditation as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity with the National Security Agency (NSA).

Dan Tappan, professor and program director with the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, says Steiner has a “knack for getting people on board with his vision.”

His gift for collaboration has resulted in partnerships with the city of Spokane, Spokane Public Schools and a host of other entities, including Fairchild Air Force Base. Steiner also played a lead role in helping to secure $2.8 million in state support to expand the cybersecurity program and another $300,000 in grant funds, Tappan says.

Some of the students’ many learning experiences include fending off cyber-attacks for small cities in Washington, including Liberty Lake and Kittitas. Teams of his students have also brought home a national title at the 2023 NCAE Cyber Games in Florida.

Steiner goes “above and beyond” to cultivate resources and industry connections to support students and position them for professional success, his colleagues say. In addition to serving on the EWU Foundation board, Steiner and his wife, Shirlee, created scholarship funds to support women and students of color – students who are underrepresented in cybersecurity. He also works to engage a younger generation by organizing cyber camps, regional cyber competitions, and mentoring activities with EWU cyber students.

Esteban Rodriguez-Marek, chair of science and electrical engineering at EWU, says although Steiner’s primary research involves cybersecurity, he is always willing to support peers conducting research in other fields by reviewing grant applications and serving on committees.

Steiner’s exemplary leadership earned the attention of NSA, which tapped him to mentor faculty members at other universities in establishing their own cybersecurity programs, says David Bowman, dean of Eastern’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“In all my time working in higher education, I can think of few people with both the passion, the expertise and most critically the commitment to the institution that Stu Steiner embodies,” Bowman says. “I can think of no person more deserving of EWU’s highest honor that Dr. Stu Steiner.”