After an 18-month educational journey that started virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ending in an in-person in-residence session and graduation ceremony, 27 homeland security professionals who completed Center for Homeland Defense and Security Master’s of Arts Degrees in Security Studies participated in a graduation ceremony in the King Hall Auditorium at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA on Friday, Sept. 23.
The cohort, which started its studies in early 2021 with the pandemic still in full swing, included federal, regional, state, and local agency representatives from the homeland security enterprise ranging from FEMA, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the U.S. Coast Guard to the California Highway Patrol and New York City, Washington, D.C., and other major city and state police and public safety departments.
U.S. Coast Guard Commanding Officer Eric Cooper, who earned the cohort’s Outstanding Thesis Award, said the CHDS Master’s Program “provided an unparalleled ability to meet, learn from, and collaborate with professionals (from) across the United States” and allowed participants to “analyze current events and emerging topics under a multi-disciplinary approach.”
“I highly recommend anyone interested in lifelong learning to apply to this program, which provides an opportunity to look at homeland security and policy issues from new perspectives,” Cooper said.
Cooper said his award-winning thesis entitled, “Defeating and Deterring Domestic Terrorism Through Evidence-Based Policymaking,” was based on his experience that the United States “often institutes policies that are not rooted in data.”
“In today’s world, we are surrounded by data that can be used to make decisions that drive toward desired outcomes,” he said. “The challenge with domestic terrorism, and other social sciences, is that there is a small number of events with a wide variety of factors. We must be smarter in how we build evidence-based programs in the United States that address the root issues of violent extremism through a preventive approach.”
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Shaun Kuzia, who earned the Curtis “Butch” Straub Achievement Award for classroom leadership, thanked the CHDS faculty and staff on behalf of the cohort for “delivering such a superb and challenging academic program.”
Kuzia said the opportunity to work with and learn from his fellow cohort participants was an invaluable highlight of the Master’s Program.
“Apart from the high-caliber instruction we received, the CHDS Master’s Program offered participants the opportunity to learn from other homeland security practitioners across all levels of government who serve in diverse jurisdictions,” he said. “In Cohort 2101/02, I could not have wished for a better group of people to share in this journey. Not only are they capable and dedicated professionals, but, more importantly, they are amazing humans with big hearts. I was reminded nearly every day of their honor, service, and integrity, and of their dedication to the homeland security mission. Each of them contributed valuable insights and nuanced perspectives, drawing on their unique positions and experiences within the homeland security enterprise. For me, the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by such a talented group of people is what makes the CHDS Master’s Program so special. The friendships my classmates and I forged during the last 18 months will last a lifetime, and I am so proud of cohort 2101/02 for making it across the finish line.”
Kuzia said he was “honored and quite surprised” to be chosen for the Straub Award, which honors one of the CHDS founders. “I consider it a great honor and it has been the highlight of my career to have worked with and learned from this stellar group,” he said. Green Bay Metro Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Goplin, who was chosen by his peers as the Master’s cohort 2101 Mark Carr Esprit De Corps Award winner, called the Master’s Program “one of the best professional experiences I have had in almost 30 years in the fire service,” adding that the “quality of instruction and the program’s academic rigor ensures that participants are challenged to expand their minds and consider far more perspectives than they may have previously.”
In addition, Goplin said he “formed lifelong connections with the people that I met in the program. I now have a network of peers who can provide valuable insights and viewpoints and will challenge assumptions when necessary. But more importantly, the cohort members became true friends.” Goplin said being chosen by his peers for the Carr Award, which recognizes students whose actions instilled, sustained, and created a spirt of unity and pride within the cohort, was “particularly rewarding. Knowing that a group of people as knowledgeable and professional as they are felt that I demonstrated leadership, provided insight, and challenged assumptions is an incredible honor,” he said.
Seattle Fire Department Captain Andy Collins was voted the Carr Award winner for Master’s cohort 2102, and said the “fact that this award was peer-selected means the most to me.”
“That my fellow students felt I was a team player that supported a collaborative learning environment and continually encouraged others to achieve success is humbling. The CHDS community is full of outstanding leaders, so to be recognized in this was is even more meaningful. Honestly, I was just trying to be a good friend and teammate.”
Collins also lauded the CHDS “world-class education,” and said the “personal and professional relationships forged through the program will last a lifetime. The 18-month program is incredibly demanding. Navigating those challenges as a cohort builds cohesion and provides shared experiences that transcend academics. As professionals, we now have trusted friends throughout the enterprise.
The Impact Award honoring CHDS faculty and staff who significantly contributed to and impacted the cohort went to Homeland Security Digital Library librarian Greta Marlatt.
CHDS Master’s Program Cohort 2101/2102
- Anthony Blum, Sergeant, Special Assignment, New York City Police Department, New York, NY
- Rachel Bond, Lieutenant Commander, United States Coast Guard, Memphis, TN
- Dayra Carvajal, Taborda International Engagement Coordinator, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, D.C.
- Andy Collins, Captain, Seattle Fire Department, Seattle, WA
- Eric Cooper, Captain, United States Coast Guard, San Diego, CA
- Joseph Darden, Special Operations Supervisor, United States Border Patrol, El Paso, TX
- Eric Fried, Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Washington, D.C.
- Christjan Gaudio, Commander, United States Coast Guard, Washington, D.C.
- Robert Goplin, Assistant Chief, Green Bay Metro Fire Department, Green Bay, WI
- Lee Gorlin, Lieutenant Commander, United States Coast Guard, Washington, D.C.
- Shaun Kuzia, Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations, Phoenix, AZ
- Hannah Lam, Immigration Services Officer II, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, San Jose, CA
- Madeline Marcenelle, Supervisory Intelligence Research Specialist, United States Capitol Police, Washington, D.C.
- Larry McCurtain, Chief Deputy Sheriff, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Bakersfield, CA
- Alaina Miller, Transportation Security Specialist, Transportation Security Administration, Arlington, VA
- Christopher Packard, Intelligence Operations Specialist, DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Tallahassee, FL
- Christopher Pashley, Supervisory IT Specialist, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Arlington, VA
- Oleg Pelekhaty, Captain, District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department, Washington, D.C.
- Anthony Rotimi, Lieutenant, Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.
- Louis Sanchez, Captain, Amarillo Police Department, Amarillo, TX
- Fabio Serrato, Lieutenant, California Highway Patrol, Fresno, CA
- Gerardo Serrato, Lieutenant, California Highway Patrol, Redwood City, CA
- Nathan Sheppard, Lieutenant, Portland Police Bureau, Portland, OR
- Travis Sluys, CBP Officer Program Manager, United States Customs and Border Protection, San Diego, CA
- Kevin Thomas, Captain, Fire Department of New York City, New York, NY
- Michael Tracey, Captain, Fire Department of New York City, Brooklyn, NY
- Michael Young, Unit Chief, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Huntsville, AL