January 21, 2004
M.A. in homeland security
New SDSU program is one of few in West
By JOE CANTLUPE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – For San Diego State University students, there is a new course of study in the making, one reflecting the times: homeland security studies.
As the nation gears up for a long-running war on terrorism, the university will be one of the few academic institutions offering that specialty.
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Dolores Wozniak, dean of the SDSU College of Health and Human Services, and other educators at SDSU planned the homeland security program, encompassing many studies – from law enforcement to technology.
Beginning in the fall, the program will become a reality: Students can attain a master's degree in homeland security.
There are only a few programs of its kind on the West Coast, including one at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey.
"I think homeland security is unfolding and new parameters are being established," said Wozniak.
The curriculum will include a wide range of disciplines, including criminal justice, public health and science. "My point is these people might have little or minimal knowledge across the board," she said. That will change, Wozniak said.
A few schools across the country have begun to embrace homeland security programs.
"Most Americans believe tighter security will be with us, and certainly there will be job opportunities for people, such as going into computer systems and security and developing new technologies," said Paul F. Hassen, assistant director of public affairs for the American Council on Education.
"You'll see a combination of disciplines, not academics as usual, as colleges adapt to changes in society and attempt to stay ahead of the curve," Hassen said.
For example, years ago nobody would have envisioned studying the Internet. But now many colleges teach Internet skills, and the same thing is happening with homeland security, Hassen said.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted $12 million to USC to launch a center on homeland security. The program will be carried out over the next three years, studying risk analysis related to the economic consequences of terrorist threats and events.
A master's program in terrorism studies will be linked to USC's Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events.
The center, which has just opened, will focus on developing software models to estimate damage and protect key infrastructure such as water lines, reservoirs, train lines and computer systems.
"There's a need to bring up a generation of students who can deal with this whole new environment of homeland security," said Detlof von Winterfeldt, a co-director of the center.
Jeffrey McIllwain, a professor who has helped Wozniak develop the proposal at SDSU, had been interviewed by many local news stations after the Sept. 11 attacks.
It occurred to him then that the broad subject of homeland security requires expertise in a wide range of subjects. He has worked on everything from organized crime to border technology to international security.
So why not, McIllwain and others reasoned, bring together all the disciplines that such students would study under the umbrella of homeland security?
SDSU also has a separate center to help coordinate the county's regional network for emergency and homeland security services.
"There were all these compartments, all these walls, and when something happens they get obliterated," McIllwain said. "There's a very big need for all these various people to communicate with each other. This is the real world. This is wonderful, to see a vision come together."
Bob Welty, who specializes in homeland security issues at the university, said there might come a time when the country doesn't face terrorist attacks.
But that doesn't mean the course would end. "It's for the study of natural disasters, too," he said.
Debbie Richeson, who works as a staff member for the department of public safety on the SDSU campus, sees an opportunity ahead to learn more interwoven disciplines as she pursues the master's program.
"There's a new era in our society, a whole new department being created," said Richeson, 37. "We are not only creating a community, but a smart community."
Alison Shackelford of Copley News Service's Los Angeles bureau contributed to this story.