Penn State’s online homeland security degrees celebrate fifth anniversary

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Penn State launched its online homeland security master’s degree program in 2010, the Christmas Day “underwear bomb” terrorist attack topped the news. Terrorist tactics have evolved since then. Today’s homeland security professionals need to be generalists who can work across agencies and nations to prevent and respond to diverse threats. On the fifth anniversary of its online homeland security program, Penn State is embarking on a curriculum update with guidance from its Homeland Security Advisory Council.

“Leadership in homeland security requires more cooperation with peers and a unified resources approach,” said Alexander Siedschlag, chair of Penn State’s online homeland security programs. “Resources are becoming more restricted at a time when organized crime, information security threats, natural disasters and terrorism are growing. Cooperation and integration among nations is essential in dealing with these threats.”

Penn State’s online homeland security programs include a master’s degree in homeland security (base program), with options in agricultural biosecurity and food defense, geospatial intelligence, information security and forensics, and public health preparedness, as well as four graduate certificate programs and two postbaccalaureate certificate programs. Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs leads the partnership with the colleges of the Liberal Arts, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Information Sciences and Technology, Agricultural Sciences, and Medicine. The World Campus delivers the programs online to more than 400 students.

The Homeland Security Advisory Council, which includes members from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the emergency management industry, has recommended new courses and an international option.

Council Chair Adm. James M. Loy pointed out, “What we are worried about today is not much different than what worried us in the 1990s. Al-Qaida is still a principal threat. We continue to face nation state threats and homegrown terrorists. It’s a more difficult analytical challenge for the United States and other nations to sort and share information that is tactically actionable.” Loy, former Coast Guard Commandant and deputy secretary of homeland security, added, “Penn State has one of the very best homeland security programs anywhere in the country.”

Thinking back to her time as a Penn State homeland security graduate student, Katie Smith, emergency management associate with IEM Inc. in Arlington, Va., is convinced: “Earning a Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security degree helped me understand the federal-level homeland security guidelines, which I use every day.” Smith helps clients plan, train and prepare to respond to disasters. “The flexibility of Penn State’s online program helped me move my career forward.”

For information about Penn State’s online homeland security programs, visit the website.