Homeland Security: Exploring a Relatively New Field of Study

President, Marian University

In no small part due to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, homeland security studies have been growing in popularity at colleges and universities all over America. Here one university insider introduces students to the field in the context of the homeland security program his institution administers.  

Safety and security are two issues of great concern to every family in America. It is no different on college campuses where programs in homeland security are increasing in popularity. One of the fastest-growing degrees at Marian University in Wisconsin is criminal justice with an emphasis on homeland security. Students are increasingly drawn to forensic science courses, having grown up with television shows like Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and Criminal Minds. This, combined with career opportunities at the federal, state, and even local level, has led to an increased interest in homeland security.

The events of September 11, 2001, gave every American pause to consider how we secure our borders and keep our families safe at home. The average freshman had just entered kindergarten that fateful day and consider the attacks on our country to be a lesson found in a history book. Yet we are all reminded of the ramifications when we pass through a screening device at an airport or cross the border with one of our neighboring countries. This cultural shift has empowered college students to take ownership of security issues at home by studying both the theoretical and practical applications of homeland security.

While most of the major security incidents have occurred on or near coastal cities, security threats are felt even in small towns. Just last year there were two incidents less than 40 miles apart in suburban Milwaukee. First there was a shooting at a Sikh Temple and a few months later a random shooting took place at a day spa, both resulting in fatalities. In a recent address to private college presidents in Wisconsin, FBI Agent Teresa Carlson of the Milwaukee office said there is an increased need for qualified agents, particularly those with a background in criminal justice.

An Institute for Homeland Security was created at the University to address the growing need for information regarding security, emergency preparedness, and best practices in the field. Nationally known experts gather for our annual symposium to examine how incidents have been handled and to help design innovative approaches to learning. There is no shortage of enthusiasm when former governors, military personnel, and local law enforcement officials gather to share their personal stories and best practices. As a result, an online journal has been published to allow experts around the country to learn from one another while encouraging students to explore the field as a career option.

Students studying homeland security may seek opportunities on the federal level with the Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Some seek jobs with state agencies or through state law enforcement, while others gravitate towards local emergency preparedness. In addition to cutting-edge curriculum, networking in the homeland security field is where students receive the greatest impact. The world is a rapidly changing place with a need for all of us to serve our nation in a variety of different ways. Given the current state of affairs there is no shortage of employment for homeland security graduates.

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