Homeland Security is a constantly evolving field: the future is bright and the opportunities plentiful for prospective students. Rockefeller College offers a number of undergraduate and graduate level Homeland Security courses that connect theory and practice.

Two such courses are the undergraduate Homeland Security Survey course, and the graduate Homeland Security: Building Preparedness Capabilities, both taught by Rick C. Mathews, Director of the National Center for Security & Preparedness. Mathews is a Public Service Professor and University Expert at Rockefeller College's Department of Public Administration and Policy in the area of homeland security and preparedness. In a recent interview with Director Mathews, he discussed both courses and how they are relevant for students seeking careers in Homeland Security.

"The undergraduate course discusses the Homeland Security enterprise, the U.S Department of Homeland Security, and how it operates; as well as how national and state strategies and policies affect how Homeland Security is implemented across the country."

This is currently the only undergraduate course that primarily focuses on this topic and that allows students to gain an understanding of a subject that many are interested in, but few understand. The course explores how Homeland Security strategies, practical applications, and theories are applied at the federal and state level.

The graduate course - Homeland Security: Building Preparedness Capabilities - was designed as a classroom course and has recently been adapted into an online course. "It is about how we as a nation - and also federal, local and state level entities - build our capabilities to be able to respond to national events including terrorist attacks, natural disasters and so on. We take a look at how this process has evolved over the years, how Congress funds these operations through grant programs and so forth. We look at national, state, and local strategies and protocols; we look at how these agencies work together and how the policies driven affect their ability to respond and work together."


Q: Director Mathews, How do you believe your courses enhance and broaden the Homeland Security concentration?

Mathews: "The undergraduate course is the only survey course about Homeland Security. It basically takes the students through a good look at Homeland Security, how the enterprise operates, and the department of Homeland Security. By doing that, it is current and it keeps up to date with evolving and changing strategies."

"The course is valuable to undergraduates because it allows students to get a good look at the Homeland Security field and how it functions at different levels. The addition of all the other content courses students must take, dealing with policies and other specific areas, allows them to see the bigger picture."

"The graduate course is designed to take the person and look specifically at how we built upon Homeland Security strategies and capabilities. It is the only course that we have currently in the graduate Homeland Security concentration that looks at preparedness directly. It looks at what we do prior to, during, and after, a major event; and how to respond and be best prepared."

Q: How do you apply your real-life work experiences into your courses?

Mathews: "I was involved in emergency management prior to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security; this allows me to be able to follow the field and its development. My work at the national and federal level of DHS gave me an opportunity, as it was established, to have a good understanding about its intent and how it is supposed to work; specifically when it comes to capabilities based preparedness. I was involved originally in work groups that determined how we were going to develop and build our capabilities on a national level, so I had a pretty good understanding by working with and actually applying the strategy protocols at the national, state, and local levels. The work that we have done and continued to do gives us the unique perspective to add to the discussions the students have. It also gives us access to top officials at the state level that can be used to inform us or to speak to the class or be available to the students."

Q: How do your courses connect the ideas of practice and theory?

Mathews: "The undergraduate course is more theory than it is practice. It is more about how the Homeland Security enterprise is organized, how it was established, why it was established, and those factors. The Homeland Security: Building Preparedness Capabilities course is exactly that, it takes theory and strategies and puts it into practice. How do we actually make that happen at a national, state, or local level? How do we actually demonstrate to build preparedness capabilities? It forces students to go through the process of looking at it from a very practical perspective."

Q: Do you think these courses will become more crucial in the upcoming years?

Mathews: "The survey course is important because it gives the overview of the enterprise, it lets students understand what they are really getting in to, and how DHS is beginning to function. Homeland Security is relatively new and it evolves quickly, so if you are going to do anything in that business and want to get a job in that area, you need to understand it. The Building Preparedness Capabilities course is all about applying what we have and it is extremely important because that is how we prepare the nation to respond to major events. It evolves as new programs, strategies, and protocols are brought in and it covers all the theory areas; both terrorism and non-terrorist events, it covers the funding aspects, it covers planning, and it takes them from a practical approach to how to make it work. The course discusses the intent of national, state, and local strategies, and how to make those strategies actually become successful."

"So from that perspective you are not thinking about what they are pretending to be, it's not based purely on history, it is not based on a particular theory, it basically is a mirror reflecting current of potentially future strategies and the direction of the entire country."

Q: Do you have any tips for people that wish to one day work in the Emergency Management field?

Mathews: "They must be able to understand Emergency Management; they have to understand how it fits within the Homeland Security enterprise, because it is part of it. It's important to understand how Emergency Management fits into development strategies, in terms of national security, response, recovery etc. In terms of capability based preparedness, emergency management is all about that, how do I get my jurisdiction, my state, my area, prepared for these major events? How do I organize and approach it? That part is critical to an emergency manager and what his or her job is."