Longest-running NPS-CHDS Executive Leaders Program class completes course

Nearly a year and a half after starting, 31 students successfully completed the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s (CHDS) Executive Leaders Program (ELP) at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

Known as ELP Cohort 1902, the students completed the program in mid-April after beginning in November 2019, and a graduation ceremony is scheduled for February 2022.

Students included national homeland security and public safety executives from various fields including emergency management, fire service, law enforcement, public health, education, and other city, county, state and federal government and private sector entities (see list below), who are at the forefront of an ever-changing environment that requires continuous education on the,latest trends in the criticial field.

CHDS Associate Director and ELP lead instructor, Sara Kay, noted that the cohort persevered through several delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and completed the program in a virtual setting.  “ELP 1902 is the longest-running cohort in ELP history,” Kay said, noting their 17-month term from start to finish. “While the virtual setting cannot replicate the in-person exprience, the cohort rose to the challenge and remained engaged and collaborative. They did this while managing extremely complex challenges in their agencies and jurisdictions related to Covid, social justice protests, and every other challenge 2020 threw at the world!

“One constant throughout their time in ELP has been the participants’ oustanding dedication to learning from each other and broadening their perspectives. They remained connected and collaborative for the length of their program and despite their final two weeks being held virtually. They are true professionals and outstanding leaders.”

LaFonda Sutton-Burke, Area Port Director, Los Angeles International Director, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said she was “fortunate to have been a part of the ELP Cohort 1902 during this critical time in our country,” noting that the experience was an “opportunity for growth, development, education, exposure, and networking with various homeland security professionals as instructors and as Cohort 1902 participants.”

Burke said her favorite parts of the program were the “transparent conversations that we held with various speakers and my fellow cohort participants,” adding that she “received a jewel from each speaker and many of my classmates,” and mentioning NPS President Ann E. Rondeau, John Yoo, Chris Picciolini, and Commissioner Chuck Ramsey as particularly interesting.

She described the ELP Cohort 1902 as including “some wickedly smart people with impressive backgrounds, and they were a fun group of people,” that bonded immediately and formed long-term relationships that resulted in “networking to obtain recommendations on courses of action.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the civil unrest during 2020-21 lent itself to extensive communications ranging from guidance from Dr. John Martel to communications with Mikelle (DeVillier) regarding her contract negotiations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to receiving vaccinations with the Veterans Affairs Administration,” Burke said.

“I really am grateful I had my cohort throughout this global pandemic and civil unrest. We had each other. We could vent, ask questions, share experiences, and celebrate milestones. It taught me that I must utilize my networks more.”

Rick DeLorie, Fire Chief & Emergency Management Director, Wellesley Fire Department, MA, said the cohort “bonded fast” during the two on-campus sessions, which extended into the virtual sessions, and praised the program’s “excellent staff, and outstanding people.”

“I look forward to returning in February to see my ELP 1902 friends and to make some more,” DeLorie said.

The Executive Leaders Program offers a deep dive into current and emerging homeland security issues, including public policy debates, threats and risks, and evolving best practices at CHDS, the nation’s homeland security educator.

CHDS is currently accepting applications for ELP Cohort 2102, which begins in November. The deadline to apply is June 15, and applications are available at https://www.chds.us/c/academic-programs/elp