New dean named to Mercyhurst’s intelligence school

Posted August 16, 2017

Mercyhurst University announced Tuesday the appointment of a new dean and two high-level personnel to lead its Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Duncan E. McGill, of Manassas, Virginia, was named the new dean of the school. McGill replaces James Breckenridge, who joined the U.S. Army War College as its provost in April. McGill most recently worked at the National Intelligence University as its associate dean for the school’s College of Strategic Intelligence in Washington, D.C.

“The big goal is to make Ridge the premium college in the country in this area of intelligence studies,” McGill said Tuesday. “And really to broaden the role of intelligence here. The Ridge College today is mostly about analytics, it’s about making judgments on data and we want to get beyond that. It’s really the understanding of data, not only from the government perspective but the private sector, too. Understanding information so that leaders can make good decisions.”

U.S. Navy Cyber Analyst Chad Griffin was also appointed to lead the Ridge College’s cyber initiatives, including the new cyber lab that will be constructed in Hammermill Library. M. Afzal Upal, a former senior data scientist for Canada’s Department of Defence, was chosen to lead the college’s data science program.

“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.

McGill served as a nuclear and counterproliferation officer during his time in the U.S. Army. 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, according to the university.


Griffin served in the U.S. Navy as a cyber analyst since 2010. He provided technical and analytic support to cyberspace operations at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. He has more than two decades of professional experience with computer information systems and technology.

Afzal Upal has served as senior data scientist for Canada’s Department of National Defence for nine years. He is skilled in machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that affords software applications more accuracy in predicting outcomes.

The college also announced it will soon have a new cyber lab and a network operations center, and additional job opportunities for students.

All of this is possible through a $1 million investment from Cleveland-based technology company MCPc, which will build the network operations center adjacent to the school’s Hammermill Library. MCPc will also manage the lab, which will employ at least 16 Mercyhurst students working with actual MCPc clients.

Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design, of Erie, is expected to complete the architectural work on the lab and center this summer. Construction should begin in the fall. Both facilities are expected to be completed by spring 2018.