VCU to Be First Major Research University to Offer Bachelor's in Homeland Security

RICHMOND, Va. - Starting this fall, Virginia Commonwealth University will become the nation's first major research university to offer a bachelor's degree in homeland security and emergency preparedness, school officials announced Tuesday.

The undergraduate program will cover topics ranging from terrorism and incident management to vulnerability assessment and emergency planning. Officials plan to add at least eight brand new courses, said program coordinator Bill Newmann.

University spokesman Pamela Lepley said officials expect about 100 majors in the first two years of the program.

It will be offered through the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Newmann linked the birth of the program to the creation in 2003 of the Wilder school _ a merger of programs in political science, public administration, criminal justice and urban studies.

"One of the things we were asked to do by the university was to think of programs that could use all those different resources," Newmann said. "The first thing I thought of was homeland security."

Newmann called security the most difficult challenge facing the country over the next few decades. That reality presents a major opportunity for those with the right training, he said.

Homeland security majors will be required to take a mixture of political science and government courses in addition to the specialized, terrorism-related courses. Tests will be written, he said, emphasizing it would not be a hands-on training program.

Rather, he said it's designed to lay the groundwork for students interested in careers in intelligence agencies, emergency planning offices and even private security firms.

"We're trying to teach people to analyze policy and manage policy," he said. "We've got a lot of interest."