Cybercrime Expert Joins UNC’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Department

Vivian Guetler’s research has taken her to some dark places. Specifically, the dark web, where she has spent considerable time analyzing communications on several forums commonly used by terrorist groups.

The analyses were the basis of her dissertation, Exploring Cyberterrorism, Topic Models and Social Networks of Jihadists Dark Web Forums: A Computational Social Science Approach, a project she pursued to provide insight into how terrorists and their supporters use the internet to communicate and recruit. Her research was so highly regarded, she received a fellowship award from West Virginia University (WVU) recognizing and honoring her efforts.  

Guetler’s research is a combination of her interests in social science and computer programming and lends to her expertise in the fields of cybercrime, cyberterrorism and counterterrorism. Subjects she hopes to share and expand as a new assistant professor in UNC’s Criminology and Criminal Justice program. 

“Dr. Vivian Guetler is a dedicated teacher who is eager to mentor our students,” said Brian Iannacchione, professor and chair of UNC’s Criminology and Criminal Justice program. “Her specialization in the burgeoning fields of cybercrime, cybersecurity, and cyberterrorism will offer our students the chance to learn about a new area of the criminal justice system that they have yet to explore. She also brings with her a track record of excellence in research that the department is excited to support and foster. Overall, she is a fantastic addition to our team, and we could not be more pleased that she decided to become a Bear.” 

A native of Mombasa, Kenya, Guetler will bring an international lens to the classroom, something she’s proud of and hopes can help position UNC as a global university. Her journey in higher education started at Alpen Adria Klagenfurt University in Austria where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and American Studies. She then moved on to Syracuse University where she earned an MA in Social Sciences: Pan African Studies and recently graduated with her doctorate in Sociology from West Virginia University (WVU). She’s also currently working on a second master’s degree, this one in Information Technology, also from Syracuse. 

“I am honored to join UNC and become a proud member of the Bear family,” Guetler said. “I look forward to working and collaborating with faculty and students to ensure student success, academic excellence, equity and inclusion for everyone at UNC.” 

While this is Guetler’s first faculty position, she brings experience as a graduate instructor and graduate teaching assistant from both WVU and Syracuse. She said she was drawn to UNC because of the university’s focus on students, diversity and inclusion, as well as the size. 

“I like the smaller classrooms here. It’s not too big or too small,” Guetler said. “It’s much better than trying to teach hundreds of students at the same time. And I like that the focus is on the student and how we make students more successful.” 

To help promote that success, Guetler is looking forward to providing students the opportunity not just to learn in her classrooms, but to innovate. 

“I’m bringing the possibility for students to be as creative as they want in my classroom,” Guetler said. “I try to make my classrooms interesting and fun, like creating a podcast instead of writing a paper. This is a criminology class, I know, but what do you want to do, what is your career, how can you bring your career goals inside my classroom? I like to think out of the box.” 

Eventually, Guetler would like to explore adding a cybercrime or cybersecurity minor to the department, something she knows will require collaboration with others. It’s a move she thinks would make UNC students more competitive in the job market. For now, though, she’s excited to get into the classroom and start teaching. 

“I love seeing students’ reactions when they’re thinking and learning,” Guetler said. “And at the end of the semester, I love seeing their projects, what they’ve been working on. I’m not their parent, but I feel like their mother. I’m so proud of them.” 

Guetler is teaching Theories of Crime (CRJ 360) both semesters this academic year, adding Cybercrime (CRJ 317) in spring 2023. She is one of three new faculty members in UNC’s College of Humanities and Social Science this fall. She is joined by Margaret du Bray, Geography, GIS and Sustainability and Caitlin Monroe, History and Africana Studies.

– written by Deanna Herbert