From Veronica Epley – Senior Policy Advisor, DHS National Protection & Programs Directorate

The DHS-sponsored master’s degree curriculum is based on competitive selection, and provides intense, broad-based study that includes technology, intelligence, strategy, psychology, critical infrastructure, international and inter-disciplinary aspects of terrorism and homeland security, extensive background on jihadist fundamentalism and terrorist groups and ideologies, and additional issues that underlie and impact the practice of homeland security. The coursework is presented through two weeks of residential education each quarter, complemented by on-line instruction, assignments and discussions, over an 18-month timeframe.

The strategic emphasis of the program requires and prizes strong critical thinking. Each cohort is comprised of both Federal and state and local homeland security practitioners, and participants work in their full-time positions throughout the program, constantly infusing the discussions with real-world issues. The personal interaction reflects diverse perspectives, but common purpose.

Despite the program’s obvious reliance on technology, people are the strong point of the CHDS experience, and the network of relationships is an enduring benefit. The individuals in my group are extraordinary in their professional and personal lives. I’m not sure what to call them… colleagues, classmates, friends. All those terms seem inadequate to express our shared mission, our mutual support and our sense of community. And that shared community of respect and commitment extends to the staff, and their exceptional dedication and first-hand experience. I feel like we are sailors, crew mates, explorers in unknown waters on an unchartered course, on a sort of timeless, open journey, not sure when or where we’ll make landfall, looking ever toward the horizons, watching for our dove.

In order to address failure of imagination, named by the 9/11 commission as a primary factor in the attacks, my thesis uses art, myth, metaphor, and psychological archetypes to frame homeland security in terms of elemental impulses of the human condition, and to advocate greater emphasis on imagination and holism. My unconventional thesis work includes an original painting.