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Student Spotlight

Justan Foster ’20: Driven to Improve Systems through Data

Justan Foster ’20

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Justan Foster

Justan Foster ’20 describes himself as a seeker and early adopter of new technologies and improved procedures. As a data analyst for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) since 2013, he saw firsthand the evolution of the need for ways to manage, store and protect massive amounts of personal data. After all, the DMV handles drivers’ licenses and learners’ permits, photo ID cards for non-drivers, vehicle registrations and inspections, traffic violations, and voter registration for millions of New Yorkers.

“Most of my time is spent focusing on how we are going to maintain compliance {with privacy regulations} and manage certain risks that exist,” he explained. “Those efforts are always tied to data and protecting the privacy of that data.”

In 2018, he decided to pursue another degree. “I wanted to expand my knowledge of an area where my employer had desperate need for guidance for both technologists and legal professionals.”

He sought an accredited online master’s program with the most flexibility in ways to complete the coursework; he needed to work ahead when he had time available because he was working full-time for the DMV and part-time as a church music director. “I liked that Albany Law School gave me the road map, time frames, and options – but let me choose my route and speed,” he said.

Another selling point for Albany Law’s Master's in Cybersecurity & Data Privacy was the program’s faculty. “I knew I’d be engaging with professors who also work outside the classroom, in a way that would easily translate to my particular line of work,” he explained. “It’s really helpful seeing ‘where the rubber meets the road’ rather than being too esoteric.”

Some of his favorite practicing role models and Albany Law adjuncts included Amy Apostol, senior attorney in the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C.; Joseph Suich, director of the Office of Investigations and Enforcement with the NYS Department of Public Service; Richard Liskov, former deputy superintendent and general counsel for the NYS Insurance Department and senior counsel at Arent Fox LLP; and Christopher Meyer, who leads the Privacy, Cybersecurity & Information Management practice at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, LLP.

What Foster learned was immediately applicable to his job; he described how his research and work in the program was heavily leveraged by his employer. He provided guidance and identified solutions for the transition to working remotely while also developing the department’s contact tracing and employee screening systems– which were then scaled up and adopted by other state agencies. In addition, he got to review policies, prepare legislative amendment suggestions, and coordinate legislative implementation.

“My goal is always to leave things better than I found them,” Foster said. “This degree allows me to open doors and use my experience to achieve that in various ways.”

It has informed his work for Camp Fowler, a children’s retreat in the Adirondacks for which he is a trustee and serves on the Human Resources and Finance committees.

And in his current home of Rensselaer County, he noticed in the county administration “a gap between knowledge and vision” that he believed had the potential to be quickly modernized, so he threw his hat in the ring for the elected position of County Clerk. His campaign is the first challenge to the incumbent in 20 years. “It’s been uphill all the way,” he admitted. But he had to try; Foster sees working in the public sector or running for office as means to an end: improving the way things work.

 “This degree has provided me with a skillset that I am able to use to give back to my communities.”

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