Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, who play Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody in Showtime’s “Homeland.”
Since 2001, the term “homeland security” has become part of our everyday lives; at the airport, in the news, on fictional television shows and, now, on college diplomas.
Fans of Showtime’s Homeland can study homeland security and other related fields to help combat the Abu Nazirs — or Nicholas Brodys — of the world.
Although the thought of becoming a real-life Carrie Mathison may be intriguing to some, don’t expect to spend class time enjoying hours of the award-winning drama.
In fact, since the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, many universities have established comprehensive majors, minors and certificates — at both the graduate and undergraduate level — in the field of homeland security.
Among the hundreds of schools that offer such programs, one thing is abundantly clear: The field of homeland security is vast, and a comprehensive education in the field requires academic classes ranging from history, religion, psychology, politics and geography to more specific classes like hazardous risk analysis, weapons of mass destruction and analyzing military policy.
Coastal Carolina University implemented its BA in intelligence and national security studies in 2012 and has since cultivated the degree to prepare students for entry-level intelligence analyst position, said Jonathan Smith, the program’s director, in an email.
Smith was hired by the university in August 2011 to spearhead this project.
“The logic of the program was premised on the growth of the national security establishment in the wake of Sept. 11,” Smith said, “as well as the growing applicability of intelligence analysis in other areas, such as law enforcement and business.”
The program requires a minimum of 45 credit hours in specifically outlined courses designed to achieve the program’s learning objectives: critical thinking, communications skills and cross-cultural understanding.
Among the foundational courses, which aim at instilling these learning objectives, are classes such as Understanding World Cultures, Global Issues in the Economy, Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, Introduction to World Politics, American National Government, Elementary Statistics and World Geography.
Additionally, students obtain 15 credits in intelligence and security studies, including intelligence communication, analysis and operations.
To round out the field of study, students choose two additional electives from the intelligence and security studies course list, two courses from a “Regional Focus” list, one course from an “Occupational Context” list and, finally, a capstone.
Intelligence and security studies electives include Foreign Policy Analysis, Comparative Security Issues, Terrorism and Political Violence and even a course titled “Al Qaeda.”
Regional Focus courses include a wide range of studies including geography, history, politics and religion. The courses are geared toward a greater understanding of topics such as Islam, Buddhism, the Middle East, postwar countries and political systems and women of foreign nations.
Occupational Context options include a political science internship and an organizational psychology class.
Like most capstone courses, the three-credit requirement for intelligence and national security studies is designed for students nearing degree completion. Students are given the task of developing and presenting a piece of original research by using skills gained from their unique combination of coursework.
“One of my current students combined regional courses on the Middle East with coursework on Al Qaeda to develop a research study on the logistics and development of Al Qaeda cells within the United States,” Smith said.
From both a practical and educational standpoint, Smith said he believes the field of homeland security will continue to grow. Although the major does not automatically guarantee a job, Smith said, the major provides students with background in the growing occupational specialty.
“Students are taking an interdisciplinary approach to critically evaluating information, solving problems and communicating effectively,” he said. “They are grappling with some of the important questions of our time — for instance, the limits to privacy in the digital age or the ethics of drone warfare.”
Similar to Coastal Carolina, schools such as Fairleigh Dickinson University, Johns Hopkins University and Penn State University offer undergraduate and graduate degrees, majors, minors or certificates in the field.
Although a BA in intelligence and national security studies does not guarantee you a position with the elite in Langley, Va. — joining the likes of Mathison and Saul Berenson — homeland security programs similar to Coastal Carolina’s offer the necessary tools to prepare for the growing field of homeland security.
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