Katelin M. Wright, Senior Immigration Services Officer III – U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS)

Continuous learning and critical thinking are two of my passions. That is why I decided early on in my career with USCIS that one of my goals was to eventually be accepted and attend the Master’s Program at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS). What I did not expect is just how much I would also gain from the program outside of the academic realm. First and foremost, my classmates became lifelong friends. I remember thinking how cliche that sounded when past alumni told our class that in our first week of school, but it absolutely became the truth. Second, I learned how to be resilient in a new way. During my time in the program, I worked full-time, served two details as acting supervisor, and helped my local USCIS office maneuver its way into a new normal under COVID as part of my collateral duties as emergency management coordinator and safety officer. Along the way, I also found my writing voice and discovered a whole new future career path I had never considered before: academic writing. Thus, my perspective on my professional and personal ambitions also changed Ultimately, upper mobility no longer means success to me. I now see I can be just as effective in my current position while also continuing to pursue the work I started with my thesis. In fact, I have since been asked by CHDS professors to expand on my findings and submit further academic articles. Whereas, at DHS I have had upper management reach out to me about my thesis topic and providing a possible overview of my findings to HQ leadership. All and all, my experience at CHDS far surpassed my expectations. Now as an alum, I find that I not only want to hold onto the many connections I have made throughout this program but also build on them while also giving back by helping recruit new students to CHDS.

Brian D. Heslin, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, HSI – Boston

The Center for Homeland Defense & Security (CHDS) Masters Program is an extremely challenging, yet very rewarding programing. The educational aspects of the program are outstanding as they challenge the student to go outside their comfort zone and study areas one may not normally ponder during their career. While the education portion of the program is the reason one applies, the interaction one obtains with other members of the cohort brings tremendous value. In my class I encountered individuals from across the nation in various positions each of whom brought their own experiences and perspectives. Over the 18th month program the cohort came together as a team, supporting each other through the challenging academic curriculum and real life events that occurred during that time. The cohort becomes a family that will be with you long after graduation. As a career government employee, I’m truly thankful that the agency participates in programs like CHDS. Throughout my career I often thought of pursuing a high education, yet never had the right time or opportunity to do so. The agencies participation in this program provided me that opportunity. For those considering this program, go for it. Yet be aware it is no cake walk. You will be challenged, stressed and at time utterly confused. Yet the dedicated educational staff at CHDS and the cohort family you will encounter will get you through it. In the end you will obtain a Master’s Degree and apply those newly obtained skills to your profession. A long trip, yet one worth taking.” Brian D. Heslin Assistant Special Agent in Charge Homeland Security Investigations-Boston

Michael Spina, Deportation Officer, DHS – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Truly an unforgettable, life altering journey. The NPS/CHDS Master’s Program has changed my life on multiple levels. Personally, it gave me the honor and privilege of developing relationships with some of the most talented leaders throughout the homeland security enterprise. Intellectually, it pushed me out of my comfort zone and increased my ability to examine complex issues critically— an invaluable skill. Professionally, it has provided me with a multi-disciplinary network of HS professionals with whom to collaborate.” Mike Spina Deportation Officer Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Laura Jamison, Supervisory Intelligence Analyst (SIA), FBI

I applied to CHDS because I wholeheartedly wanted to learn about homeland security from a prestigious academic university that promoted independent thinking and problem solving methods. I wanted to understand how the homeland security enterprise impacted my role as an FBI supervisory intel analyst and ways I can better assess vulnerabilities in protecting the US. I also wanted to write a thesis to strengthen my research, analysis, and writing skills and examine a problem that was currently on my plate. The caliber of the professors and classmates and the discussions about homeland security and problem-solving went above my expectations. The resources and facilities were outstanding and I am forever grateful for the experience.” Laura Jamison Supervisory Intelligence Analyst (SIA) FBI

From Jason Lyon – Battalion Chief, Billings Fire Department

The Master’s Degree program at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security was both the most challenging and rewarding experience in my professional life. The opportunity to study and learn from CHDS’s internationally recognized staff has provided me numerous tools to increase the security and efficiency of my community. Studying and learning with homeland security professionals from across the nation and spanning all of the components of the homeland security enterprise has provided me with an extensive professional network with whom I can reach out to in order to respond to new challenges facing my jurisdiction. The academic programs at CHDS have changed my thinking with their emphasis on making decisions based on evidence and the quality of that evidence. The resources that CHDS provides to their students ensures that they become better speakers, writers, and thinkers. I strongly encourage any homeland security professional looking at a master’s degree to apply to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at NPS.

From Ana Lalley – Police Chief, Elgin Police Department

The Center for Homeland Defense & Security (CHDS) Masters Program was one of the best learning experiences I have had.  The level of expertise that each instructor brings to the learning environment is unmatched.  I entered the program with a Masters’s Degree from a university, but my experience at CHDS continued to challenge and inspire me as an individual and leader in my organization.  It was refreshing to hear so many different perspectives from talented people in my cohort and I truly enjoyed the experience.  If your mindset is a ‘can-do’ attitude when you arrive at CHDS, when you leave CHDS your mindset will be ‘can-do’ and ‘will-do’!” Ana Lalley Police Chief Elgin (IL) Police Department