A Matter of Degrees

By Mary Alice Davidson

Before his senior year in college, Erik Stanton landed a summer internship in Washington, D.C. A criminal justice major at Salem College in Massachusetts, Stanton was placed with The Shaw Group, Inc., a Fortune 500 company that provides engineering, design, construction, and maintenance services to government and private sector clients in a range of markets, including infrastructure and emergency response industries. He began working with Shaw’s homeland security team led by Edward Badolato, executive vice president of homeland security, adding some real-life experience to what he learned in the classroom.

With that insider view of the business world, Stanton may have already had a leg up on others his age, but he realized that the top tier of his contemporaries were adding to their credentials through advanced degrees. So Stanton returned to Washington after graduation and began looking into programs with a homeland security bent. An online search led him to George Mason University’s biodefense degree program.

Designed after the 2001 anthrax attacks, the degree focuses on biological weapons, including bacterial and viral agents as well as toxins. Offered as a certificate, a Master of Science degree, or a Ph.D., the program covers such topics as crisis and consequence management, detecting the production of biological agents, epidemiology of a bioterror attack, medical treatments and response, and counterterrorism and civil rights.

Stanton saw the master’s option as “an opportunity to pursue a degree in something that is really unknown, not so popular,” and as a way to “stand out in this new field.” He will complete the degree in December with a concentration in threat analysis of biological weapons and counterterrorism.>



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