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CHDS Graduates Tenth Homeland Security Class

Twenty five of the nation’s top homeland security leaders received their master’s degree at the Naval Postgraduate School’s (NPS) Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) on December 19, 2008. This marks the tenth commencement ceremony of the program that to date has produced over 250 alumni from around the country. Currently, the Center runs five master’s degree classes, three in Monterey, California and now two in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The goal of the Center in providing this program to DHS officials is to increase the collaboration between the local, state, tribal and DHS agencies at the strategic level. "This class is special because they are the first group of senior DHS officials to participate in the Center’s National Capital Region cohort. There are a number of homeland security officials who are receiving graduate education degrees and we are pleased to partner with the NPS Center to increase the capacity of the Department by providing strategic, policy and organizational design perspectives they use in their jobs every day," says John H. Bridges III, Assistant Administrator for the National Integration Center, FEMA. The NCR cohorts were initiated in June 2007 as a result of the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act of 2006. CHDS was selected to undertake this initiative and DHS officials participate through the Department’s Homeland Security Academy. DHS Chief Learning Officer, George Tanner said, "This partnership is one that brings both the academic and the practitioner together. The interagency and interdisciplinary collaboration results in real solutions for the ever-changing landscape of homeland security."

The program requires participants to complete a thesis that proposes solutions to current homeland security policy and strategy challenges within their agencies. Several of the theses have become best practices and are used as national models. "We have to keep pace with the growing complexities in the field of homeland security. Educating our leaders is the most important investment we can make for the future," says Glen Woodbury, Director of CHDS.

The NCR cohorts are comprised of officials representing the different components of the Department including TSA, Customs and Border Protection, FEMA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Office of the Secretary, Secret Service as well as a mix of local, state, tribal and federal agencies. Several of the students were also recognized for their special contributions to the CHDS program.

Gregg Golden, Senior Counsel for the Transportation Security Administration, was presented the Zimbardo Award. This award is given to a graduating student who demonstrates the best understanding of the psychological aspects of terrorism and whose performance in the master’s program best embodies the highest levels of academic achievement and outstanding leadership.

"Gregg was chosen because he asked very insightful questions, reflecting a critical mind and an open attitude, not just about terrorism but also about the ‘worldview’ of Americans as contrasted to citizens from other nations. He helped to energize the class as well as the instructors," stated CHDS Professor Dr. Phillip Zimbardo.

Stephanie Blum, Attorney for the Transportation Security Administration, was selected as the winner of the Outstanding Thesis Award for her dissertation entitled, "Necessary Evil of Preventive Detention: a Plan for a More Moderate and Sustainable Solution." The nominated theses were evaluated on the following criteria: overall Academic rigor; quality of the literature review; impact of the study on homeland security strategy and future research implications; quality of analysis and conclusions; quality of organization, writing and overall presentation of thesis.

"The first NCR cohort produced a number of truly excellent theses, but Stephanie Blum’s thesis stood out as being particularly strong in terms of its academic content, its relevance to policy, the quality of its analysis, conclusions and the literature review and the quality of writing," said CHDS Professor Nadav Morag. "Moreover, Stephanie was also able to publish this thesis as a book (which is a first for our program) titled, The Necessary Evil of Preventive Detention in the War on Terrorism and published by Cambria Press."

Christina Bell, Director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was selected as the winner of the Curtis H. "Butch" Straub Achievement Award. She was nominated for the award by fellow classmates for her excellent grades, her outstanding thesis, "The State of Leadership in DHS-Is There a Model of Leading?" and help in providing leadership and energy for the CHDS MA Program.