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HALLS OF ACADEME
HOMELAND HOMEWORK
Issue of 2006-06-19
Posted 2006-06-12

Dear Admissions Officer:

As soon as I read in the Post that Long Island University would be offering an online master’s program in Homeland Security Management, I knew I had to apply. But then, this month, New York City’s antiterrorism funding was cut by forty per cent partly because of a clerical screwup—apparently the application was supposed to be filed electronically, but some weird eighties person faxed it instead, prompting Senator Charles Schumer to explain, “It would be as if you got 800s on your boards and Stanford Law School rejected you because you put the stamp on upside down.” Senator Schumer obviously has no clue what it takes to get into grad school in modern times (“Boards”? Try the LSAT, top score 180), but, anyway, his speech made me paranoid. So, even though you don’t require an essay, or, even necessarily a bachelor’s degree, here are a few words about why I want to come to (or at least send e-mails to) L.I.U.’s Southampton Graduate Campus for my degree in Homeland Security.

My main reason for wanting to obtain this diploma is that, as your Web site puts it, “Homeland Security is among the nation’s leading growth sectors.” In the ten years since 2002, there will have been, for instance, a 22.4-per-cent increase in jobs for detectives and criminal investigators—it’s like those ads in the subway promising a bright new future, except that we get to learn about dirty bombs and money laundering instead of dental hygiene.

Reconnaissance is crucial to homeland security, and I have been doing some advance planning of my own. Of the five core classes L.I.U. offers, I am particularly interested in HSM 530: Domestic and International Terrorism, for which the syllabus includes stuff like “The Al Qaeda Manual” and “An Outline of the Most Superior Fundamentals in the Art of Kidnapping Americans.” For my electives, I’m thinking about HSM 670: The Economics of Terror and Extremism (“Week 7: Focus on Diamond Smuggling” looks especially fascinating) and HSM 710: Weapons of Mass Destruction. I’m also looking forward to the practicum requirement. In an internship as an airport security manager, for instance, it would be educational to experience the passenger- screening process as a wander rather than as a wandee.

I expect to absorb many important lessons from my fellow-students, most of whom, as your literature explains, will already be working in the field full time. I’m passionate about discussing issues like the hawala remittance system with such diverse classmates as a practicing attorney, a SWAT-team commander, and a Suffolk County beat cop just back from a year in Falluja. Also, I am impressed that you have appointed a former police officer and Fulbright scholar, Dr. Vincent Henry, as your director. (Only three law-enforcement officers in the country have earned both Ph.D.s and Fulbrights, and all of them, I understand, teach in the program.) Professor Henry currently instructs an intelligence-function course that I would like to take, HSM 540. For each unit, he posts a Question of the Week online and asks his students to discuss it. “I had an N.Y.P.D. captain,” he said, “who came back with a two-thousand-word footnoted response about Chinese tactics and the availability of trucks during the Chosin Reservoir invasion.”

Given the demographics of the industry, I feel very comfortable with the concept of distance learning—it would be tough to start a chapter of the Young Republicans or throw a fun interdepartmental mixer with a student body that, so far, is ninety per cent men over forty. In fact, the institute’s philosophy of “asynchronous” learning, which says that “students are not required to be in a particular place at a particular time,” is one of its most attractive aspects. (I would have arranged an informational tour of the H.S.M. campus, but, as Professor Henry says, “we really only exist as a cloud of electrons.”) And, since the brochure notes that the administration is “particularly sensitive to the needs and objectives of busy homeland security professionals,” I feel confident that my undergraduate disciplinary record will not pose any obstacle to my acceptance. Should a certain incident come to your attention, please let me remind you that the public-safety officers at my university have not benefitted from the rigorous training that your institution provides.

Thank you for your consideration.

— Lauren Collins