Bachelor of Arts Security Studies Degree
|El Paso, TX -- NCBSI
Nontraditional students from around the country interested in the security field will benefit from a new fully online degree plan created by The University of Texas at El Paso's (UTEP) National Security Studies Institute (NSSI) that is set to launch in May, thanks to a grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs, through the National Center for Border Security and Immigration, a DHS center of excellence at UTEP.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) approved the Bachelor of Arts degree in security studies in December 2014. It will be among the first courses offered through the new UTEP Connect, home to the University's growing portfolio of online undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates.
Organizers hope the degree plan answers the need for more qualified applicants to fill the growing number of security-related positions created since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
Larry Valero, Ph.D., NSSI director, designed the program's curriculum with the needs of security and intelligence agencies and the military in mind. He believes the program will lay a solid foundation in theory and empirical thinking, while promoting a greater understanding of statistics and honing writing skills needed by security professionals.
"We are offering an opportunity to our target audience that they never had before," Valero said. "Earning this degree is highly relevant to their career path. They need it to advance. I believe it will be very popular, especially among nontraditional students with military, law enforcement and homeland security backgrounds seeking to complete their undergraduate education."
The NSSI director said he expects to have 350 students enrolled in the program by the end of the decade. Most of them will be self-directed adults with different responsibilities who want a quality education but cannot always attend scheduled classes in a brick-and-mortar setting.
The first classes will involve security tied to history and geography, but more courses will be added every seven weeks. The degree offers concentrations in intelligence and national security, homeland security, cyber security and security operations.
One of the aspects that excites organizers is the depth and breadth of interdisciplinary instructors who agreed to be part of this program. Faculty from around the country will share their expertise in intelligence, law enforcement and the military.
Christine Rinehart, Ph.D., adjunct instructor, has been teaching for 13 years and will focus on terrorism and counter-terrorism. The South Carolina-based instructor has taught online courses for UTEP's NSSI since 2012.
She said degree plans such as UTEP's new one will lead to more highly trained security specialists who can serve in the U.S. and around the world. She referred to the recent terrorist attack in Paris as an example of why the U.S. needs a robust intelligence program.
"The CIA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security start at square one when training their people," she said in an email. "When students graduate, already having obtained an undergraduate degree in security studies, we will have a better qualified group of professionals in the intelligence community."
Another faculty member is Brett Morris, Ph.D., who recently stepped down from his position as director of presidential communications at the University of Idaho. The retired Air Force colonel will teach modern strategy. He has taught about the military and intelligence to members of the U.S. Department of State and officials from almost 70 foreign countries.
Morris said the new degree plan emphasizes skills that transcend business, government and nonprofit sectors, and its international orientation should serve students well as they enter a highly connected and increasingly globalized work environment.
"The thinking and writing required in this course will equip students to respond to rapid change regardless of the specific setting," he said. "There's a lot to read, write and learn, but who gets to consider how countries rise and fall, develop plans to preempt cyberattacks, and practice high-level negotiations in a single undergraduate program?"
The security studies degree plan will be offered through UTEP Connect, home to the University's growing list of online undergraduate and graduate degree plans and certificates. The degree program was developed with funding from the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate and provided through the National Center for Border Security and Immigration at UTEP.
Mike Smith, J.D., Ph.D., dean of UTEP's Extended University, said the approval by the THECB was a positive step that would help those who want to enter or further their careers in the intelligence and security fields. Extended University is the University's administrative umbrella organization that oversees the institution's nontraditional academic offerings, including UTEP Connect.
Michael Topp, Ph.D., associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts, praised Valero and his program for designing the curriculum and having it ready for a summer launch.
"Because it's online, it will offer opportunities to students who might otherwise not be able to study at UTEP," Topp said. "We're hopeful that UTEP Connect will help the NSSI recruit interested students so that as many people as possible can take advantage of this new degree."
By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service