A Matter of Degrees

By Mary Alice Davidson

Homeland security programs like the one that Stanton is completing are now garnering more attention on college and university campuses across the United States. The National Academic Consortium for Homeland Security (NACHS), an alliance of colleges and universities engaged in program delivery on the topic, lists more than 300 participating two- and four-year institutions on its Web site.

Among the programs listed are research projects, technological developments, service activities, training, and degree programs. Descriptions provided by the institutions can be searched by 28 “focus areas,” including agroterrorism/defense and food security, critical infrastructure protection, science and technology, and social, religious, and cultural issues.

NACHS was developed by Todd Stewart, Ph.D., who is also the director of the program for international and homeland security at Ohio State University (OSU). OSU brought Stewart in to help establish its homeland security offerings in 2002.

What’s in a Name
Despite the growth of academic programs in homeland security, there is no consensus on what they should cover, how they should be structured, or who should be the target audience. The definition of homeland security is a sticking point for many academicians who agree primarily that the concept of homeland security has not been clearly defined.

David Gilmore, CPP, president of Colonial Safeguards, explains the dilemma: To engineers, homeland security may focus on blast resistance. To an information system security person, it could mean protecting the infrastructure from a cyber attack. A first responder may see homeland security as training for a chemical or biological incident. A scientist may think homeland security combines biochemistry and public health. “All of these functions could be in the realm of homeland security,” says Gilmore.

Representatives from 27 universities and colleges and 20 public and private companies grappled to agree on a definition during the 9th Annual ASIS International Academic/Practitioners Symposium. Gilmore chaired that event, which was held at the University of Maryland in the summer. Most participants felt that the Department of Homeland Security itself was still unsure of its mission and that both government and the private sector entities were still determining what skills and knowledge might be needed to address homeland security issues.

“DHS has yet really to solidify and determine its destiny,” says Eugene Ferarro, CPP, PCI, president of Business Controls, Inc., a firm that specializes in training and education.

Multidisciplinary Approach
However one defines homeland security, it is clearly many faceted and, therefore, requires “a multidisciplinary approach,” says James McClanahan, Ed.D., associate professor, Eastern Kentucky University, and chairman of the ASIS International Academic Programs in Colleges and Universities Council.

That explains why there are so many different approaches among academic institutions. At OSU, for example, rather than developing a discrete homeland security course of study, Stewart explains that he worked “within established degree programs to create areas of concentration, certificate programs, or majors focused on various aspects of homeland security.”

As examples, Stewart points to a major in security and intelligence that is now offered to undergraduates in the OSU School of International Studies. A concentration called public health preparedness is now an option in the university’s master’s of public health degree, which involves faculty from four colleges: medicine, public health, food and agriculture, and veterinary science.

Embedding homeland security programs in security management or criminal justice programs is another model adopted on many campuses. “After 9-11, we felt there was a fundamental shift in criminal justice and security management concerns,” says Robert McCrie, Ph.D., CPP, professor of security management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. New issues had emerged that focused away from what McCrie calls “episodic crime,” to a new fear of terrorism from foreign or domestic sources that would require a response from the security community.

In response, John Jay added emergency management as a third concentration within its Master of Science in Protection Management, joining security management and fire protection management. New courses were added to the core curriculum, and new electives addressed broad topics such as the psychology of continuity planning.

In addition, all faculty, whether they were teaching corrections, criminal justice or security management, were asked to consider how homeland security affected their field of expertise, resulting in changes to course syllabi. Professors would offer “lectures, discussions, readings on 9-11 issues across a broad range of courses,” says McCrie.

Meanwhile, the president of John Jay brought together a committee composed of faculty as well as representatives from government, psychology, and the forensic sciences to offer suggestions on what they would like to see in a security management degree program that focused on homeland security. As a result, “we will change descriptions on our catalog to reflect issues that are homeland security oriented,” says McCrie, “but we have no plans to change the names of our programs.”

John Hill, Ph.D., director of the University of Denver’s (UD’s) security management program, also supports an interdisciplinary focus to homeland security courses. He cites a fictitious example of a dirty bomb explosion, which could involve hydrologists, hydrogeologists, and toxicologists as well as emergency responders from government and industry. “The consequences of these events do not yield to a single discipline,” he says.

But the interdisciplinary nature of homeland security can also work against the establishment of degree programs because of the realities of how universities work. It raises the question: “Who owns the program?” says Gilmore.

If a department is credited with a certain number of students, and then those students need to take courses in another department, problems can arise. “Universities have the same problems that many government agencies have,” notes Carl Richards, Ph.D., regional director of Webster University’s Washington, D.C.-based programs, and that is sharing information.

Frustrations with collaborative efforts among faculty were expressed by participants in the ASIS academic symposium. “How do we get the biology department to talk to the criminal justice department?” asks Ferraro. Differing political points of view can also affect how faculty see the global war on terrorism, and homeland security by extension. Nonetheless, attendees recounted some models for progress. For example, Stewart at OSU says that because he is a senior administrator, he is in a unique position to facilitate cooperation among the university’s eighteen colleges. “It allows me to cut across the functional stovepipes,” he says.

Other academic institutions have created homeland security centers primarily for research but with some provision for teaching. Frequently those programs address a specific aspect of homeland security. Examples are Carnegie Mellon University’s center of Internet security, Dartmouth College’s Institute of Security Technology Studies, or Kansas State University’s National Agricultural Biosecurity Center.

Not all programs lead to a degree. Certificates in undergraduate and graduate concentrations are available to candidates who may already have an advanced degree but want to retool their credentials before applying for work in homeland security. An example is Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security Leadership, where students complete five three-credit courses.

In another case, the University of Connecticut (UConn) recently entered into an agreement with the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), which has for two years offered a Master’s Degree in Professional Studies with a concentration in Homeland Security Leadership at its Monterrey, California, campus. Going forward, the faculty of the two institutions will collaborate on course content and research.

State and local officials as well as military personnel and first responders make up NPS’s traditional student base. Through the partnership with UConn, the curriculum will now be offered to private sector employees. Students will spend five weeks on the UConn campus during the twenty-month master’s degree program.

The first East Coast iteration was offered in September. Courses included asymmetrical conflict in homeland security, critical infrastructure and risk management, and intelligence policies in homeland security.



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