The Hippo


Aug 20, 2019








Inside UNH Manchester. Photo by Ryan Lessard.

Security studies
UNH Manchester launches Homeland Security program

By Ryan Lessard

Starting in the fall, the Manchester campus of the University of New Hampshire will offer a new bachelor of science major in homeland security. 

It’s a growing field that encompasses a great many disciplines. The school’s administration plans to invest in the program’s growth, hoping that, in the future, it may become what the American Sign Language program has been for the school — a nationally recognized undergraduate program that will attract students from out of state.
Fighting terrorism, protecting credit cards
The homeland security program will encompass many things, from cybersecurity to intelligence to emergency management. Students will learn about the root causes of political violence here and abroad with an existing course on terrorism. And they’ll acquire practical tools in the growing fields of risk assessment and mitigation, which can be useful for protecting anything from power lines to credit card data. 
Students can go on to get their master’s in law or engineering or they can land jobs in the Federal Emergency Management Agency or an Internet company looking to bolster its protections against hacks and cyberattacks from abroad. Some can go on to the military or law enforcement.
Unlike international relations degrees or criminal justice degrees, homeland security has the benefit of casting a wide net of skillsets that employers are finding increasingly attractive.
Good for UNH
The first step in creating a nationally recognized program was hiring Jim Ramsay, who started the homeland security program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
“I’m currently the department chair of the nation’s largest homeland security program, which I built from scratch in 2006,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay said at that time his program was one of only about a dozen.
“Eight years later… I have 17 faculty and staff, I have almost 1,300 students, two majors, two master’s degrees and six minors,” Ramsay said.
Embry-Riddle is a non-profit, independent university with about 30,000 students. UNH Manchester has just over 800 undergraduate students, though, with its recent move to the larger Pandora building on Commercial Street, it has room to eventually grow that number to 1,200. Interim Dean Mike Hickey wants to see the school’s undergrad enrollment hit 1,000 within the next few years.
Hickey said he’s excited about this program’s potential for boosting enrollment and for training a generation of students for a wide array of public- and private-sector jobs in which he sees a lot of demand for this kind of expertise.
“It seemed like a natural academic program for UNH Manchester, especially with our strong focus on experiential learning,” Hickey said. “What we have in mind as a good, solid target audience are, for instance, the community colleges — which are graduating associate degree students in criminal justice and computer science, where we rely heavily on transfer students.”
While Ramsay will have fewer students and faculty working under him, few are as well-suited to build this program, according to Hickey.
“He has grown a program of national stature,” Hickey said.
And Ramsay is ambitious with his plans.
“My goal is, within the first five years, [to] have a proper, robust faculty dedicated to security studies writ large,” Ramsay said.
Good for students
Hickey thinks a concentration in cybersecurity alone would mean jobs for students with a homeland security degree, even here in New Hampshire. He’s had talks with Eversource executives about the program and expects tech companies like Dyn and others will play an active part in the program, by providing adjunct professors, internships and senior capstone projects. Companies that deal with electric infrastructure and telecommunications are among the most likely to invest in cybersecurity and emergency management personnel.
And Hickey, a former Verizon executive, should know.
“I served as vice president of national security policy with the company,” Hickey said.
He said he dealt with protecting the company’s physical assets, human assets and cybersecurity assets.
“I came away from that experience with a good appreciation for the ways in which companies like Verizon and companies — whether they’re small, medium or large or very large and international — need to be collaborating with government to protect the country’s critical infrastructure from intrusion,” Hickey said.
In the broader sense, Ramsay said government and industry want people who can do risk management and can think strategically, whether it’s for emergency management for weather events and earthquakes or for terror attacks and cyberattacks.
“Whether you’re talking bad guys or bad weather, you have economic impacts that are expensive to recover from,” Ramsay said.
Both emergencies and security threats require the same matrix of problem solving, according to Ramsay, which includes responding to problems, recovering from them and mitigating risk for future events.
And he said the name of the program should not imply that a graduate with a homeland security degree will only get a job in the federal agency of that name.
“Actually, most of my students don’t work for DHS,” said Ramsay. “Most of my graduates work in what the government calls the homeland security enterprise.”
He said the burgeoning field of study is a response to workforce demand.
“Academia was not spun up to produce a generation of practitioners which the government was suddenly finding itself needing,” Ramsay said.
Growing field
Dean Mike Hickey said it was time the school get on board with this new and growing field.
“My feeling was that homeland security was an emerging professional arena where we could engage students very vigorously with studies across a spectrum of areas,” Hickey said.
Ramsay said the homeland security field has skyrocketed in recent years. Nine years after his was one of just a dozen programs, there are now more than 470 nationwide, according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Of that, 118 are bachelor’s degree programs and 143 are at the master’s level. And it all started with the formation of the federal Department of Homeland Security following 9-11.
“This was definitely a response to a world action,” Ramsay said. “It was not a response to science.”
Ramsay said that, on the one hand, it can be inconvenient having a federal department with the same name as the program, but it can also be expedient in encapsulating all that it can include.
“One could argue that homeland security is an aspiring academic and professional discipline that talks about the greater milieu of activities that happen to be in the department of the same name,” Ramsay said.
In the fall semester, Ramsay plans to offer the courses Introduction to Homeland Security, Political Violence and Terrorism and Fundamentals of Emergency Management. The spring of 2016 will see the additions of Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience and Foundations of Corporate and Physical Security. Intro to HS and Terrorism will be offered both semesters. 
As seen in the May 7, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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