Record number of alumni attend APEX Continuing Education Workshop

Glen Woodbury addresses the audience on day one.

The 16th annual Alumni Professional Exchange–Continuing Education Workshop (APEX) was recently held at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. APEX is organized and hosted by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) to provide alumni the opportunity to explore critical homeland security issues from different perspectives while visiting with classmates, expanding networks with professionals from other cohorts, and catching up with instructors. CHDS Association President, Chris Pope, summarized the conference appeal, “APEX has content and speakers that are relevant to the diverse missions our alumni serve. There is something here for everyone to learn. The collaboration between local, state, federal, tribal, territorial and private sector leaders is second to none.”

Reunite with your Cohort!

This year’s event set a record with 228 attendees from 37 different states, representing over 200 agencies. In addition to the traditional speakers and panel discussions on Wednesday and Thursday, February 19-20, CHDS added a pre-conference option that featured short TED Talk-style presentations from the alumni on Tuesday, February 18. “The pre-conference Short Talks on Day 1 were a wonderful addition to APEX,” noted alumna Meredith Infantino (MA1005/1006 and HSx1701). Each of the Alumni Short Talks focused on a novel idea, perspective, or approach to homeland security within a 20-minute presentation, followed by a Q&A session with the audience. After the Short Talks were finished, everybody was invited to attend an APEX Meet & Greet Reception at Monterey Tides Hotel. The reception was hosted by the CHDS Association and sponsored by FirstNet AT&T.




Samantha Korta and Katelyn Mason explain How Fake News and Information Laundering Threaten Homeland Security.

CHDS Alumni “Short Talks” morning session

  • Climate Security: A Pre-Mortem Approach to a Sustainable Global Future
    • John Comiskey, EdD, Associate Professor, Monmouth University
    • Michael Larranaga, PhD, President, R.E.M. Risk Consultants
  • Beats Thinking: Detecting Deception & Eliciting Truth
    • Nick Catrantzos, Investigator
  • Countering Human Trafficking
    • Bentley Nettles, Executive Director, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
  • Health Equity is a Homeland Security Issue
    • William Pilkington, Research Professor and HOPE Program Director, North Carolina Central University at North Carolina Research Campus

CHDS Alumni “Short Talks” afternoon session

Noel Lipana’s heartfelt Short Talk on Moral Injury drew a standing ovation from the audience.


Director Woodbury introduces Chad Gorman on day two.

The second and third day of APEX followed the traditional conference format by offering four different plenary sessions both days. The plenary sessions were approximately an hour long and focused on a specific topic. Glen Woodbury, CHDS Director, provided the day two welcoming remarks while setting the stage for one of the best APEX conferences to date. Woodbury then introduced Chad Gorman, Assistant Administrator of National Preparedness for the FEMA National Preparedness Directorate. Gorman is a graduate of the NPS-CHDS Master’s Program (MA1005/1006). He discussed the complex nature of the threats currently facing homeland security and how they will continue to evolve. “I believe in continuous improvement. No matter which program you participated in at CHDS—Master’s, ELP, Emergence, HSx, REP, or PELP—the projects you worked on and the issues you tackled have made an impact towards eliminating homeland security threats,” Gorman added.

Director Woodbury presents the Founders Award to Captain Robert Simeral.

Following Gorman’s insightful keynote, Director Woodbury returned to the stage to present the CHDS Founders Award to Captain Robert Simeral, USN (Ret.). Captain Simeral joined the NPS-CHDS faculty in 2004 and was promptly appointed NPS Executive Director for Intelligence Research. His lifelong dedication to the homeland security enterprise is outstanding and he expressed his gratitude for receiving the CHDS Founders Award. “I’m grateful to be here at APEX. It draws on the whole CHDS excellence, academic performance, and innovation. There’s a lot of commitment here, as shown by the great attendance of alumni, and that’s what really makes this award special for me; being able to accept and share it with the CHDS family.”

  • Plenary Session 1: Preventing Domestic Targeted Violence
    • Aaron Cotkin, PhD., Social Science Research Specialist, National Threat Assessment Center, Protective Intelligence and Assessment Division, U.S. Secret Service, DHS
    • Diana Drysdale, Supervisory Social Science Research Specialist, National Threat Assessment Center, Protective Intelligence and Assessment Division, U.S. Secret Service, DHS
  • Plenary Session 2: Canada’s Approach to Homeland Security

    Kristin Wyckoff and Colin Murray discuss Canada’s Approach to Homeland Security.

    • Colin Murray, Defence R&D Canada & Senior Advisor, Science & Technology, DHS
    • Kristin Wyckoff, Science & Technology & Senior Advisor, DHS, Defence R&D Canada
  • Plenary Session 3: Emergency Management 2.0
    • Brock Long, Executive Chairman, Hagerty Consulting & Former Administrator, FEMA, DHS
  • Plenary Session 4: Collaborative Security: How Information Sharing is a Team Sport
    • Denise Anderson, President, Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (H-ISAC) & Chair, National Council of ISACs

As is the tradition, the CHDS Association hosted an Alumni Networking Reception after the conclusion of plenary sessions on day two. It’s a great way to unwind after a long day and an excellent opportunity to reconnect with your former classmates or meet colleagues from other cohorts.

Day three began with a message from Chris Pope, CHDS Association President. He led the audience in a moment of silence during the remembrance ceremony honoring the members of our NPS-CHDS family whom have passed (Michael McGrath, NYPD Deputy Inspector, ELP1201).

Madeline Kristoff and Kevin Peters discuss Border Security.

  • Plenary Session 5: Public Health Risk Forecast – What Can We Expect?
    • Crystal Watson, DrPH, Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security & Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health and Engineering
  • Plenary Session 6: Border Security – Perception versus Reality
    • Madeline Kristoff, Acting San Diego Field Office Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS
    • Kevin Peters, Chief, National Threat Evaluation and Reporting Program, Office of Intelligence & Analysis, DHS
  • Plenary Session 7: 5G & Homeland Security Leadership in the Age of Digital Transformation
    • Ryan Burchnell, Director, FirstNet Strategy & Policy, AT&T
  • Plenary Session 8: CHDS Updates & Alumni Meeting
    • CHDS Updates from Glen Woodbury, Director, Center for Homeland Defense and Security, NPS


Save the Date! The 17th annual APEX continuing education workshop will be held on February 16-18, 2021.