Homeland Security 101
The tedious task of signing up for classes could become more exciting for students as they return to college campuses this month to find a growing number of homeland security and terrorism course offerings.
In an effort to attract federal funding, draw new students and prepare graduates for careers in the expanding field of homeland security, universities are augmenting existing courses and launching entire programs around security, defense and terror issues.
Most university course books now include at least a few related classes. For example, students at the University of Richmond can enroll in Rhetorics of Terror/ism, Homeland (In)Security, and the State, which examines the root causes of terrorism and current United States security concerns. Rice University offers Jihad and the End of the World, a religion class that explores the concept of holy war in the Islamic world.
Students taking the Urban Security course, at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, analyze blast loads and explosion mitigation in order to learn how to design buildings that can withstand acts of terrorism.
Departments like Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, Ohio State University’s International and Homeland Security program and Denver University’s Homeland Security Certificate program are also popping up in an attempt to coordinate security education across the country.
“It’s not unusual for educators to provide content-specific courses as different issues arise,” said Mel Bernstein, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s University Programs Office. “We’re trying to get an assessment of these. Many are going to be very valuable, but they need to prove they can meet our needs.”
According to Todd Stewart, a retired major general and director of Ohio State’s program, there is no consensus on what constitutes a homeland security course, let alone a coherent program.
“Programs in this area come in all shapes and colors,” he said. “Some are just doing research; others are offering a curriculum and certificate. Some have taken an existing course and simply changed the title for marketing purposes.”
Stewart expects programs will remain fairly wide-ranging until there’s a better agreement on what someone working in homeland security is expected to know upon graduation.
“Before there’s recognition (of homeland security) as an academic undertaking, there needs to be acceptance and understanding of it as a profession,” he said. “That hasn’t happened yet.”
In an attempt to gain some consensus, in March 2003 Stewart founded the National Academic Consortium for Homeland Security. Today, about 150 universities are part of the consortium, sharing information with one another and the government in developing course work and research goals.
For its part, the DHS encourages students and universities to take an interest in homeland security courses, and offers funding to some individuals and programs. The agency has already named the University of Southern California, Texas A&M and the University of Minnesota Homeland Security Centers of Excellence, awarding the schools and their respective partners $45 million over the next three years. USC will focus on risk analysis and economic impact of terrorist threats and events, while Texas A&M and Minnesota will study agriculture and food defenses.
According to Bernstein, more such centers are on the way. The DHS recently put out a call for proposals for universities to focus on the social aspects of terrorism and counterterrorism, and to explore the roots of terror and how the United States responds to terrorist acts.
The DHS currently offers about 300 scholarships and fellowships to undergraduates and graduate students. The agency also provides summer internships in DHS-related organizations across the country and awards stipends during the school year.
Potential job opportunities abound, as the DHS alone employs an estimated 180,000 people across the 22 federal agencies that were combined to create the department. Add in state and private-sector positions, and demand for graduates well-versed in dealing with violence, fear, bombs, religion and government will become more acute.
“It’s definitely an emerging discipline,” said Dan McBride, a former federal agent and senior faculty for Kaplan College’s Terrorism and National Security Management Certificate program. “These lay the groundwork for the future. What you’ll start seeing are undergraduate degrees and Ph.D.s in various fields with expertise in homeland security.”
In the meantime, students can sign up for classes like Terrorism Issues at Clemson University, which covers a myriad of national security concerns, including arms control, terrorism, counterintelligence and weapons of mass destruction. Or Missouri University’s Science & Technology and Terrorism & Counterterrorism, combining engineering and political science to learn about the types of technologies used by and available to terrorists. Or, Why do “They” Hate Us? from St. Lawrence University, a historical and political examination of 9/11.
Autor: Michael Myser