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Online Homeland Security degree sees changes

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Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014 12:00 am

With homeland security tactics always changing, Penn State is implementing changes to its online Homeland Security degree curriculum for the program’s fifth anniversary of being a degree option.

Through the current program, students take core classes and then choose a specialization to follow. Alexander Siedschlag, chair of the homeland security program, said there will now be an orientation class at entry level for all students.

“It is important to give each and every student an appreciation for what the program is so they understand the whole program,” Siedschlag said. “Therefore, it is important to have a very solid orientation phase as the program starts.”

Students will still have core classes and the option to choose a specialization, but the orientation phase will allow students to understand all specializations before they ultimately decide, Siedschlag said.

He said the changes are a combination of recommendations from the Penn State Homeland Security Advisory Council and faculty groups. The faculty group came up with a proposal for changes with recommendations from the Advisory Council.

“The whole notion of the degree is to offer the students who are taking it the ground level and master level opportunities to equip themselves and project themselves in the homeland security space going forward,” James Loy, chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council said.

Loy, a former Coast Guard commandant and deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said the challenge of the program is to keep it current and keep the students up-to-date in the field they would like to work in.

“Our program continues to grow and diversify,” Siedschlag said. “As the options grow stronger, the more important it becomes at entry level to give students a good picture of the whole program.”

Loy said the variety of the program makes Penn State’s program a “rich one.” He added that Penn State Harrisburg’s program has been named one of the best in the last five to six years because it has already taken a “multidisciplinary approach in homeland security.”

Katie Smith, Class of 2012 and a graduate of the program, said it gives a good baseline for students to understand homeland security.

“It was a really great educational tool to understand the background,” Smith said. “I go back to the basic frameworks and I use them every day at my current job.”

Smith added that the changes will be helpful because “things are always changing and it’s important to learn from the most recent event.”

Siedschlag said the changes will be implemented by spring 2015 at the latest.

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