Thirty-one students complete NPS-CHDS Master’s Program

Graduating students meet online to celebrate their accomplishments.

The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Spring Quarter Graduation Ceremony that was scheduled for March 27 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony was set to included thirty-one homeland security professionals who completed a Master of Arts degree in Security Studies from the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS).

NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau seized the opportunity to honor the graduates via teleconference, many of whom remain on the front lines of the national response to the pandemic. It was a great surprise and Rondeau thanked the new NPS alumni for finishing their program in a virtual environment and encouraged them to continue using the advanced education and professional networks they’ve obtained to share best practices, collaborate, and win the fight against COVID-19.

Antoine Kelly, Nuclear Facility Coordinator at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, expressed his appreciation, “While the ending wasn’t what anyone could have envisioned, I’m still very thankful for the opportunity to have attended the Center for Homeland Defense and Security and to have met so many wonderful and bright people along the way!”

The thirty-one CHDS master’s students participating in this master’s cohort represent a snapshot of the homeland security enterprise, including professionals from the fields of emergency management, education, law enforcement, fire service, homeland security, public health, and local government. The various agencies associated with this master’s cohort reads like a list of stakeholders that collaborate to protect the homefront on multiple levels—from the local level (NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Santa Rosa Fire Department, Denver Police Department) to the state level (Idaho State Police, South Carolina Emergency Management Division, Nevada Division of Emergency Management/Office of Homeland Security) to the federal level (US Customs and Border Protection, FEMA, DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis) to name a few. The diverse representation of agencies and jurisdictions is evident.

Alana Tornello, Human Services Coordinator, Office of Emergency Preparedness & Response at NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, added “Learning should shake the tree of your knowledge to the roots. It should jolt beliefs, biases, and narratives out of the branches and onto the grass. It should make you identify what you want to take back, or leave in pursuit of something new. Fellow students, faculty, and staff at CHDS taught me what that learning looks like, both in the classroom and in the Trident room. ”

Located at the Naval Postgraduate School, CHDS is the nation’s homeland security educator. Master’s degree students develop critical thinking, leadership and policy skills during a rigorous 18-month program. Each graduate completes a thesis on a current issue facing his or her jurisdiction. The theses topics focus on key issues, such as critical infrastructure, automated analytical systems, human trafficking, cybersecurity, counter-terrorism, wireless network systems, urban forest management, and disaster displacement. These theses often translate into policy and practice. Many of the master’s theses are available via the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). CHDS is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Preparedness Directorate, within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For more information, visit

ABOUT NPS: The mission of the Naval Postgraduate School is to provide unique advanced education and research programs in order to increase the combat effectiveness of the U.S. and Allied armed forces as well as enhance the security of the United States. For additional information, visit


Two graduates received special recognition.

  • Outstanding Thesis Award: Alana Tornello was recognized for her thesis “The Last Responders: Approaching the Disaster after the Disaster through Community-Based Long-Term Recovery Groups.” The award is based on academic rigor and the quality of the literature review, analysis, and conclusions as well as writing and overall presentation of the thesis. She credited her classmates for the award, “My classmates are an exceptionally service-driven and compassionate group. They have changed my life in significant ways throughout a joyous and painful eighteen months. What is helping me get through the nightmare of COVID-19 in NYC in its very darkest moments is knowing that I have them–and that we will all be together again someday in Monterey to celebrate the community we built, alongside the leaders at CHDS who gifted us with that beautiful opportunity.”
  • Curtis “Butch” Straub Award: Alana Tornello. The award is presented in honor and memory of one of CHDS’ founders.
  • Mark Carr Esprit de Corps Award: Brian Miller (1805) and Alana Tornello (1806). The Mark Carr Esprit De Corps Award and is named in honor of a former CHDS student who passed in August 2014.