Students who want to get in on the ground floor of one of the most up and coming career fields in today’s world, with job choices as diverse as working for a federal intelligence agency or the U.S. Navy to being employed at a major corporation such as Boeing or a policy center like The Brooking Institution, can now earn a security studies major this fall at Westminster College.
“The approach to liberal arts education taken by Westminster College offers the ideal environment for a security studies degree,” says Political Science Professor Tobias Gibson, who is in charge of the new major.
Gibson points out that security studies requires multi-discipline course work.
“Topics and ideas from history, political science, philosophy, international relations and psychology are all part of a security studies curriculum,” says Dr. Gibson. “Then classes must be small enough and discussion based so these topics can be applied and analyzed in light of current national and international events.”
Dr. Gibson offered a two-day, three-night National Security Institute for high school students earlier this month.
Interest in security studies has grown following the September 11 attacks and the evolution of terrorist groups, “lone wolf” attacks, and hackers in the cyber security world.
Westminster has offered a security studies minor since the fall of 2012.
The new Westminster major will focus on the four areas of international security, homeland security, science and technology security and environmental health and occupational safety.
Knowledge will be integrated in a variety of fields such as political science, natural sciences, computer technology, environmental health and safety, natural sciences and public administration.
The objectives will be to develop student critical thinking about security issues within a changing environment and provide students with the knowledge, skills and abilities to gain professional employment in a security-related field.
Recently, Westminster renovated the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology computer labs to create a cybersecurity computer lab, a dedicated space detached from the rest of the campus network. This lab will provide students in the program the necessary space to explore security issues, defend against simulated hackers and utilize computer security and forensic tools.
Richard Sterns, Westminster Class of 2014, who earned a security studies minor and has recently been accepted to the George Mason National Security Law Journal, strongly believes security studies helped his other studies at Westminster and is now helping his continuing education as a law student.
“Learning about security studies allowed me to be a more analytical and thoughtful participant in my history and political science classes and bring a different perspective to the table than other students without the same background,” Sterns says. “Security studies is full of complex legal questions, particularly in how we balance security and liberty so it was excellent background for law school classes such as constitutional law.”
Westminster College is one of a select group of colleges and universities with an established partnership with the Advanced Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) whose mission is to develop a workforce of appropriately cleared government and contractor personnel capable of generating actionable information from technical intelligence systems.
Caleb Marquis, a Westminster graduate this past June who received a security studies minor and held an internship at ATIC, says: “Westminster has a core alumni base that is either pursuing careers in security studies or already achieving fantastic careers in the field. Being in touch with them has been a great help in my preparation. And the faculty members for the new security studies major are great people who take an active and sincere interest in your success and will do everything they possibly can to help you succeed.”
Over the past few years, career opportunities in security studies have mushroomed in government, the private sector and the nonprofit world. Positions are open in fields as varied as the military, the intelligence community, federal law enforcement agencies, congressional committees, policy think tanks, legal firms, large corporations, technology companies and the private defense industry.
“It is imperative that all students know something about security studies because it is a subject that is tied to almost every event we see on the nightly news, whether it is foreign or domestic,” says Sterns. “Knowing something about security studies is necessary to be informed about today’s current events around the world.”