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Online Class To Focus on Threat of Terrorism
By Christopher Henderson

The students attending Southampton College’s new Homeland Security Institute will apply their everyday experience responding to terrorism directly to their studies in the school’s virtual classrooms.

The new school, which will be conducted entirely online starting in September, will recruit students from the management level of law enforcement, public safety, and military agencies throughout the country. At the institute they will apply the techniques and theories they use in the field to case studies prepared by a professor.

The school’s director, Dr. Vincent Henry, said he hopes the ensuing classroom discussion will allow personnel from different professions to learn about how other agencies work.

“One of the most important things in homeland security is the transfer of information between agencies,” Dr. Henry said. “People need to know what all those other folks do and how they do it.”

Students will participate in online seminars, engaging in virtual discussions on everything from the laws governing “homeland security” to the best way to integrate emergency plans of the agencies that respond to a terrorist attack. Dr. Henry believes the geographic diversity of the program will improve the learning experience for students.

“Someone in New York City has something to learn from the emergency plans for Southampton Town Hall,” said Dr. Henry. “Each place has its own set of circumstances. [Emergency personnel] have to be able to understand those circumstances in order to be adaptable.”

Southampton College’s Homeland Security Institute is one of many programs cropping up at colleges across the country as the military and law enforcement officials change the way they approach emergencies after September 11, 2001. The increased academic study of security will make the United States better able to take on terrorists, according to Dr. Henry.

“On September 11, we became aware of a new set of threats to our nation,” he said. “Homeland security professionals are tasked with defending our way of life and American liberty.”

The institute and others like it will become forums on new ideas to combat terrorism, according to Dr. Henry. Despite the credentials of the professors, he thinks most of the innovation on the virtual campus will come from students.

“We don’t want to be the experts who have all the answers,” said Dr. Henry, who leads a faculty that includes several Fulbright Scholars and other academics, each with years of experience in public safety or law enforcement. “Unless we learn from our students, we are never going to make any progress.”

The online basis of the program is specifically designed for working professionals to participate, since most military personnel, police officers, and others involved in homeland security do not have an ordinary enough schedule to participate in a regular class. The syllabus and readings for every class will be online. Classroom discussion will take place in the form of facilitated bulletin boards. Professors will have online office hours and lectures will be available on streaming video.

These techniques will be used in each of the school’s five courses, which include Introduction to Homeland Security Management, Constitutional Issues in Homeland Security Management, Domestic and International Terrorism, the Intelligence Function in Homeland Security Management, and Homeland Security and the Private Sector. Faculty members include retired chiefs of police, New York Police Department commanders and public safety commissioners. The board of advisors is led by Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, and two Long Island Congressmen: Peter King and Steve Israel. Students will receive a graduate certificate upon completion of the program. The school will eventually offer a master’s degree, once it is certified by the state.

While classes will be held on the internet, Southampton College will serve as its host institution since the program needs to be registered at a physical campus. Southampton will handle the admissions process, along with the other basic clerical needs of the institute. Long Island University chose to locate the institute at Southampton because the school will be entirely made up of graduate programs next year, according to Dr. Henry. Southampton College’s undergraduate program relocated to C.W. Post this summer.

In addition to the online classes the institute will offer skills training for homeland security professionals. Trainers from the institute will instruct police and fire departments or other agencies on topics such as emergency plans or the constitutional law and civil rights. The school will be able to host training sessions or travel to individual departments. The institute will also take part in consulting agencies on emergency plans and other components of homeland security.

Once students graduate from the program, the work that they do will remain behind. The case studies written by this year’s class will be available for future classes. Dr. Henry hopes to create a strong alumni association so that the networking and communication that takes place in the program continues after graduation.

Eventually, Dr. Henry envisions the school expanding into other parts of Long Island University, such as the pharmacy school and the graduate accounting program. Dr. Henry said he has the full support of the university as he continues to nurture his program.

Long Island University President Dr. David Steinberg “told me to build the most useful program,” Dr. Henry said. “This was not a business decision. He asked me ‘What does the nation need?’ We didn’t want to educate just New York.”

Copyright The Southampton Press, published 8/04/05
This article has been reprinted with permission from the publisher. Repreductions require further permsission.