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Homeland Security 101

2 minute read
Margot Roosevelt

Undergrads at Ohio State University have been so gung ho about an international-studies course called Terror and Terrorism that the school added another frighteningly current class last spring: the Development and Control of Weapons of Mass Destruction. For their term papers, students must assess the potential damage of an atomic, biological or chemical attack–and offer solutions. “I had students e-mailing airport and nuclear-power-plant officials,” says Professor Jeff Lewis. “I had to restrain their enthusiasm.”

Three years after the al-Qaeda attacks, academia is embracing the post-9/11 world. Some 200 colleges and universities offer homeland-security studies much as, decades ago, national-security programs sprang up to address the issues of the cold war. Community colleges–already in the business of training fire fighters, police officers and medical technicians to deal with hurricanes and earthquakes–were first to mount new certification programs tailored to unnatural disasters. Four-year institutions quickly followed. Last fall San Diego State launched an interdisciplinary master’s degree in homeland security, attracting students from nursing, criminal justice and political science. The University of Southern California is offering an online master’s in system safety and security, for which students examine such problems as how to defend civilian airplanes against surface-to-air missiles. Engineering schools are adding classes on potential cyberattacks on the electrical grid. And George Washington University’s medical school now requires its students to take an emergency-preparedness course.

Some students are drawn to the subjects because they have family and friends shipping out to Iraq. But many see job opportunities ahead–not just in government (the federal Homeland Security Department employs 183,000) but in industry as well. “A lot of companies are specializing in homeland-security technology,” says U.S.C. Dean Max Nikias. “Everybody wants to get into this.” –By Margot Roosevelt

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