New Hampshire college offers degree in homeland security

Daniel Webster College students enroll in new security major


Parker Moore was in sixth grade when the planes flew into buildings on a brilliantly sunny September morning, and he remembers well what happened next: The police and fire departments were virtually unable to communicate with each other as they rushed to help.

"I definitely had a problem with that," said Moore, 18.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the rescue blunders fortified Moore's desire to work in public service. This year, he became certified as an emergency medical technician, or EMT. When he started looking at colleges near his home in Bow, N.H., he was drawn to the field of criminal justice - until he learned about a new program at Daniel Webster College in Nashua.

"I heard about homeland security and I realized it was sort of a calling for me," he said.

Moore is one of 35 students who began the college's new major in homeland security this fall. The students will spend the next few years taking classes with anxiety-producing names: Acute Stress Management, Sociology of Disasters and Ideology, Conflict and Terror. And when they graduate with a bachelor of science degree, they will join a growing number of young workers eager to confront some of the most perplexing problems of the 21st century.

Before the 9/11 attacks, a few programs in higher education focused on terrorism. But after the Department of Homeland Security was created - President Bush established the initial office weeks after the attacks - programs began proliferating to train students to work in both the public and the private sectors.

"It's about the fastest-growing area in academia," said Stanley Supinski, director of the partnership program at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, Calif.

Now, about 300 schools have homeland security programs. About a third are certificate programs, often for mid-career workers returning to school. The rest are split fairly evenly into master's, bachelor's, and associate's programs, Supinski said.

Many students enter the field because the job prospects for graduates are promising. The US Department of Labor has predicted that the number of jobs in security management will grow more rapidly than those in any other field. Aside from the obvious employers, such as the Department of Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies, businesses are increasingly hiring people to manage their own security issues, from how to recover after a terrorist attack or flood to how to keep computers secure.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell launched a certificate program in Security Management and Homeland Security in 2004. The program, within the criminal justice department, is designed for people already working in public safety, business, and information technology.

Steven P. Lab, director of the criminal justice program at Bowling Green State University, has been an outspoken critic of the trend toward homeland security majors in higher education.

"It's a hodgepodge of topics that have already existed on college campuses for the most part," he said. "And they've strung them together in a meaningless whole called homeland security."

Lab argues that students seeking careers related to homeland security issues would be more likely to get jobs if they specialize in specific areas that interest them, such as Middle Eastern Studies or biology. Otherwise, he said, "none of these people are going to be marketable when they go out into the workforce."

But Daniel M. Rattner, a visiting scholar in the criminal justice department at Northeastern University, argues that the nation's security requires better communication and collaboration, especially between government and businesses that control critical infrastructure such as power, water, and food. College students who study homeland security - not just terrorism but disease, natural disasters, and other emergencies - will be better equipped to help the country prevent tragedies, he said.

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