Being from Augusta, Grayson LaHatte has seen first-hand the explosion of the cyber industry in the Garden City. Growing up three blocks from Augusta University, LaHatte has also seen how AU has continued to elevate its reputation and wanted to be a part of it.
Following his high school days at Aquinas High School, LaHatte got his bachelor’s degree in political science from Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. After graduating, he was working, but not on the career path he was hoping for.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and LaHatte’s job was shut down, leaving him in limbo. He remembered conversations he had with Craig Albert, PhD, director of the Master of Arts in Intelligence and Security Studies program. While he wasn’t interested in going back to school right after getting his undergraduate degree, the pandemic renewed his interest, and he applied to the MAISS program. Things have fallen into place since then.
“If it weren’t for COVID, I probably wouldn’t have applied for it. So that’s my silver lining,” said LaHatte.
He graduated with his MAISS degree in 2022 and began to work as an analyst for the Department of Defense shortly after.
The interest came from seeing what Augusta had to offer.
“I’ve always had interest in military intelligence. Augusta is a huge military city. We have Fort Eisenhower (Fort Gordon), we’ve got the new cyber center downtown and we have all sorts of places around Augusta that cater toward the military. So it’s had a big influence on my life,” LaHatte said.
He added he was unsure if the military was right for him but wanted to assist them. The MAISS program hit the marks he was looking for.
It took a bit into his first semester, but he can still remember the light-bulb moment where he knew he found the field for him.
“It was about six weeks into my first semester, and we were having a conversation with my classmates about intelligence collection methods and something was going on with Iran. It just sort of dawned on me that this was pretty much my happy place – talking about world politics and geo-military issues and stuff like that.”
The MAISS program is designed to be completed in two years. LaHatte decided to do it in a year and half. He knew it would be a daunting task, and even Albert questioned whether he could handle the work.
He said it was challenging getting to know a lot of the military jargon, but he was up to the challenge and even impressed Albert along the way.
“One of the benefits of the MAISS program I found is that, due to Augusta being a military city, we had a lot of military folks in our courses. They would always go out of their way to explain stuff to us civilians, like what certain topics meant or real-world experiences of things we were talking about, and it definitely improved the course.”Grayson LaHatte
“Grayson had something to prove to everyone, but most importantly, to himself,” said Albert. “I could see what his dedication to the program would be and how ambitious he was. Grad-school Grayson was out for something special, wanting to create a standard. And he did. In fact he was awarded the most dedicated student for MAISS, an award the faculty made up just for his determination and zeal for getting after it. He made me proud, the entire program proud and now I hear from his colleagues in the federal agency he was placed in that they are very impressed with him. It’s a perfect ending to a great story of student success.”
Initially LaHatte was considering doing it over the two years and said he wouldn’t go back and do it differently since his job offer from the DoD came the Monday after graduation.
He’s a believer that things work out for a reason, and all the little things he did led up to his job offer, falling into place at precisely the right time.
As a little kid, LaHatte wanted to work in Washington, D.C. Now, he’s doing just that with a dream job. He wanted to do something in the geopolitical center of the world and remembers when MAISS was first announced. He thought it probably wouldn’t happen but is certainly glad things worked out.
He also wanted to thank his family, friends, professors and his fraternity brothers at Delta Chi for all their support since they played a role in getting to this point.
When it comes to the MAISS program, LaHatte said it would be extremely difficult for a different university to duplicate it. Augusta University is the perfect setting with the perfect mix of a significantly-sized military fort, NSA and the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in one general area.
“One of the benefits of the MAISS program I found is that, due to Augusta being a military city, we had a lot of military folks in our courses. They would always go out of their way to explain stuff to us civilians, like what certain topics meant or real-world experiences of things we were talking about, and it definitely improved the course,” said LaHatte.
It’s a theme echoed by Albert.
“I think having everything Augusta has, including the Army Cyber Command, Fort Eisenhower in general with specific unit in Military Intelligence and Cyber Brigades, is very beneficial to the program both in terms of providing an active, ambitious workforce that are interested in the program, but also in the terms of being able to recommend our graduates to their civilian sides has greatly contributed to the program.
“Of course we would not be where we are without the support of retired Lt. Col. Eric Toler at the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center. He has been an advocate for the program and has really provided his expertise to help develop the program and helping create and run the Georgia Cyber Information Warfare internship with the MAISS program,” said Albert.