Texas A&M Introduces Homeland Security Graduate Program

This story was written by Abid Mujtaba, The Battalion
Texas A&M University's contribution to homeland security will increase in fall 2008 with the introduction of a master's degree program in Homeland Security Studies.

"It's a general change in the world in which we live. Technology is giving small disgruntled groups the power to have major impact on society," said David H. McIntyre, director of the Integrative Center for Homeland Security, ICHS, at A&M.

"Even if the threat from Islamic terrorism ended, the threat from [the] Timothy McVeigh [responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1992] style of terrorism will exist. Also, as we become a more complex society, natural disasters have an even greater impact upon us."

Jeanine Kantz, who works at the ICHS, said homeland security is becoming more of an all-hazards focus, not just on the threat of terrorism.

The master's program will be a faculty-driven, graduate-level interdisciplinary course conducted by the ICHS that coordinates the extensive academic activities on campus geared toward homeland security.

McIntyre listed the wide range of academic courses and programs dealing with homeland security and the wide range of research in human and animal diseases, civil engineering, crash barriers, aviation and port security and border issues across the campus. The current Certificate in Homeland Security offered to students in the Bush School is an example of this.

"We [also] do a number of non-degree programs out of TEEX, Texas Engineering Extension Service, as well," McIntyre said. "They have 70,000 people a year [in a] facility outside of College Station which trains policemen and firemen, so A&M is doing a lot."

A number of schools across the U.S. have homeland security programs of one kind or another. Recent reports put the number of schools with a homeland security program or course at 250.

"Most of them were established after Sept. 11, but some of them were built over existing programs," McIntyre said. "What is new and different and important about the master's degree program at Texas A&M will be the focus and the breadth of the degree.

The focus will be policy, science, engineering and technology in homeland security. That is very unusual in that so many schools are simply teaching what the federal government is doing or what emergency managers are doing. This is a very different academic, intellectual approach."

In the initial interest meeting last fall, more than 100 faculty members expressed interest in participating in the program.

"[What is also] different is the large number of colleges across the University [and] the large number of faculty that will be able to create courses that link in to this program. The idea of tying this together through the fundamentals of policy, science, engineering and technology is an absolutely new concept that does not exist anywhere else in the U.S.," McIntyre said.

Students who wish to specialize in homeland security have the opportunity to earn a master's degree in that field. This will involve taking a set of general core courses and specialized elective courses offered by participating colleges and departments, including the engineering program.

"I think, both as a participant of the campus-wide interdisciplinary homeland security program and as a representative from the engineering program, that, in the future, we shouldn't graduate any engineer from Texas A&M University that doesn't have a good understanding of homeland security issues," said Don T. Phillips, the coordinator of homeland security research initiatives for the engineering program. "It is something that everyone will have to be concerned with not, just the federal government."

The master's program will be run by an intercollegiate faculty goup. The courses will be taught out of the individual colleges, but it will be the faculty group who decides how the courses are tailored into the program.

"Probably every college on campus will [by the end,] have a say in the formation of the program," Phillips said.

A steering committee consisting of 18 individuals, from the ICHS and members of the faculty, are writing the bylaws that will govern the program.

The tentative plan is that it will be a thesis program consisting of 36 hours with a non-thesis option. It will have six core courses and six electives. Final decisions on the make up of the program will be made by mid-spring by the steering committee.

The core courses expected in the program are courses in policy, science, engineering, technology and quantitative and qualitative research methods in homeland security.

The program will accept students with a bachelor's degree who are eligible for admission to the graduate school. The ICHS is also exploring the possibility of offering the program online to meet the growing demand.

A large number of the students enrolled in the certificate program are employees of the Department of Homeland Security improving their skill set. Possible employment for students earning their master's in Homeland Security Studies will be in homeland security at the local, state and federal level and "ultimately in private industry beginning to discover that homeland security is very important to them," McIntyre said.

Examples are big department stores, particularly safety and security in food production, and companies that own and operate critical infrastructure such as nuclear power plants.

Students studying at the Bush School will still be able to take courses in homeland security, but "students that want to get their [master's] degree [primarily] in Homeland Security will now be able to do so," said Sean O'Neil, a master's student in International Affairs at the Bush School who has earned a Certificate in Homeland Security.

"The Bush School, when it started, was a master's program based out of the political science department...until finally it developed into the Bush School," O'Neil said. "The ICHS master's program seems to be developing in the same way.

"There is a need for this type of curriculum where you have academic theory [along] with functional technical expertise so that graduates that come out of the program have an understanding of this dynamic field."
© 2007 The Battalion via U-WIRE

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