SAFE AT HOME – Career Colleges Respond to America’s Homeland Security Need

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, galvanized both government and public focus on the security of the American homeland. While the measures that need to be taken to ensure security in the 21st century are debatable, events like 9/11, the terrorist plot in
London last August, and Hurricane Katrina have challenged our nation’s view on safety and preparedness, caused terrorism to become a rising global concern, and placed a spotlight on future response strategies.

As Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in his remarks to federal, state and local colleagues and university officials – Hurricane Katrina served as “a vivid demonstration of the fact that improvisation is no substitute for preparation.”

These tragedies “forced us to focus on the fact that this country had not adequately planned for a true catastrophe,
whether it be a natural catastrophe or a manmade catastrophe,” Chertoff said. The Department of Homeland Security shoulders the heavy responsibility of protecting America’s soil from terrorist attacks and responding to natural disasters. Since its establishment
in 2002, the DHS has embarked on ambitious efforts to secure our nation.

A number of career colleges are playing increasingly important roles in these efforts by establishing degree programs in homeland security. Sonoma College is a prime example of what these programs can accomplish. A provider of postsecondary education in Petaluma and San Francisco, California, Sonoma has overcome geographical barriers by teaming with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and the New York EMS Authority to provide more than 15,000 members with an online distance-learning program in Homeland Readiness and Emergency Management (HREM).

The thousands of men and women who make up the FDNY membership are heroes, not only in New York, but worldwide,” said Chuck Newman, CEO of Sonoma College. “Supporting them through education and creating professional problem solvers is the goal of this agreement. As homeland security is the responsibility of both the public and private sector, this agreement brings the two entities together for the common good.”

Sonoma recognizes the quality of the FDNY training from probationary school and beyond and offers direct credit for courses taken in the New York Fire Academies as well as advanced standing for outside college work and other educational experiences.

Sonoma officials have made it clear that they intend to maximize the opportunities for students in their HREM Associate of Applied Science degree program.

“The fact that the courses are all available online further meets the needs of emergency responders whose tours extend beyond that of a traditional student. This may be just what many FDNY personnel have been waiting for to advance their education,” said Dr. Victor Herbert, FDNY Dean of Instruction.

Since homeland security and related concerns have escalated around the globe, Newman hopes Sonoma’s HREM program will expand outside of New York City to serve other fire departments and emergency service organizations throughout the United States.

“Sonoma College’s distance learning program, which is delivered 100 percent online, enables us to reach out to many others who can benefit from the HREM Associate of Applied Science degree program.”

Florida Metropolitan University is also actively aiding in the efforts to protect our nation. Having added Homeland Security to their curriculum three years ago, FMU has served as a pioneer in the field. FMU offers both Associate and Bachelor’s degrees in Homeland Security.

“FMU created this program not only to fill a demand in the industry, but to also allow individuals to make a lasting impression on the war against terrorism,” said Andy Ali, Director of Career Services at FMU. “All it takes is one person with the right skills, training and motivation to make a difference. This program will inevitably give everyone this opportunity.”

FMU strives to immerse students in the world of homeland security by offering classes in domestic and international terrorism, antiterrorism risk assessment and critical incident management.

The University has not only been in the lead by providing homeland security training; FMU graduate Xonia Jaen was the first civil citizen in the U.S. granted a Bachelor of Science degree in Homeland Security.

Jaen’s achievements were congratulated by President George W. Bush, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of the State Condoleezza Rice, Senator Mel Martinez and David A. Bergeron from the U.S. Department of Education.

Jaen and thousands of students like her are obtaining the skills and knowledge they need to contribute to the safety of all Americans, while fulfilling the mission of the Department of Homeland Security.

“There will always be a need for qualified individuals specialized in counterterrorism and homeland security because of the emphasis placed on this initiative by the U.S. Government,” said Ali. “Career colleges provide the DHS with highly skilled, qualified individuals whose main focus is on the issues of security, intelligence, operations, emergency systems and crisis management, all necessary in the protection of our homeland.”

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