Twenty-Nine Graduate from CHDS Master’s Program

More than two dozen homeland security professionals graduated from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security Master’s Program, earning Master’s of Arts Degrees in Security Studies during a ceremony at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, on Friday, March 29.

Master’s Program cohort 2205/2206 included a range of federal, regional, state, and local agency representatives from law enforcement, fire, emergency management, and other disciplines in the homeland security enterprise.

Curtis “Butch” Straub Achievement Award winner John Caton

Top students in the cohort included FEMA Region 3 National Preparedness Division Business Analytics Team Lead John Caton, who was named the Curtis “Butch” Straub Achievement Award winner for classroom leadership, and FEMA Program Analyst Serena Cheung and Farmington, NM, Police Department Operations Deputy Chief Kyle Dowdy, who were named co-winners of the Outstanding Thesis Award.

Caton, Elijah Lim and Colin Morneau were each also nominated for the Outstanding Thesis Award.

Cheung and Milwaukee, WI, Fire Department Battalion Chief Andrew Hargarten were named winners of the Mark Carr Esprit De Corps Award, which recognizes students whose actions instilled, sustained, and created a spirit of unity and pride within the cohort.

Outstanding Thesis Award winners Serena Cheung and Kyle Dowdy

Cheung said the highlight of her CHDS Master’s experience was “undoubtedly the chance to engage with and learn alongside my fellow classmates from diverse backgrounds and experiences. This opportunity not only expanded my understanding of homeland security but also built a solid network of emergency managers on whom I can confidently depend in times of crisis. This experience has equipped me with invaluable professional skills, fostered lasting friendships, and strengthened my connection and commitment to our homeland security mission.”

Dowdy said his favorite aspect of the program was the networking, which he called “second to none.”

“The meaningful connections made among others in the Homeland Security field will benefit me for the rest of my career and beyond,” he said, adding, “This was by far the most significant academic experience of my life. I now have a larger framework by which to see the world. Extraordinary professors taught many topics that I would have never been able to experience in a traditional university setting. The ability to interact with a group, including professors and presenters, that is operating at a high level in the Homeland Security profession will impact my career in the future.”

Lim, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, said he most enjoyed the “interactions and friendships with my fellow students, instructors, and faculty at CHDS.

“Learning from a group of professionals and professors with different public service, military, and governmental backgrounds has been a blessing and joy, and this experience has expanded my perspective and understanding of our society and government from a homeland security perspective,” he said. “Having at least a couple more decades of public service work ahead of me at my respective agency [LAPD], I am hoping this experience has made me more knowledgeable and trained in homeland security matters and may prove vital in a future role with my agency in special events planning, including the 2028 Olympics, and within the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau later down the road in my career.”

Mark Carr Esprit De Corps Award winners Serena Cheun and Andrew Hargarten

Morneau, a Supervisory Immigration Services Officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, noted the “privilege of such distinguished subject matter experts as faculty and the camaraderie that shared stress amongst my cohort naturally produces.”

“I had to redefine what could be done in a day to manage my deliverables,” he said. “I got used to doing two things at once: doing the dishes while cooking, doing laundry while writing, and exercising while watching media. Sitting is the death of productivity, and I needed to get used to coming home from work and immediately transitioning into home chores before immediately transitioning into coursework. I’m going to carry forward this understanding that you can get a lot more done than you think you can if you avoid breaking your rhythm by giving in to a temptation sit on the couch and check your phone while dinner is cooking.”

Brittany Vera, a Senior District Attorney Investigator for the Riverside County, CA, District Attorney’s Office who gave birth during the program, said CHDS “afforded me the privilege to delve deeply into the complex realm of homeland defense and security, expanding my understanding in profound ways. It pushed me to analyze homeland security through a multidisciplinary perspective and engage in innovative thinking. This experience facilitated the establishment of lasting personal and professional bonds, cultivating friendships that hold significant meaning to me. This transformative journey has not only bolstered my confidence to assume leadership roles within my field but also strengthened my steadfast commitment to navigating the constantly evolving terrain of homeland security.”

And, class president Greg Flynn, the West Bloomfield, MI, Fire Department Chief, said the “faculty’s commitment to excellence and willingness to impart knowledge and provide mentorship were invaluable. Interacting with these experts deepened my understanding of the subject matter and honed my analytical and critical thinking skills,” adding that, “the opportunity to engage with cohort peers from varied backgrounds and perspectives was instrumental in broadening my world and national views while enhancing my leadership capabilities. Outside the classroom, the hours of sharing stories, celebrating achievements, and networking with colleagues in the Trident Room are among my most cherished and lasting memories. The rigorous curriculum, emphasizing theoretical knowledge and practical application, elevated my professional skill sets. The program’s research component allowed me to delve deeply into a personal and professional interest topic. This rewarding research experience provided a platform for developing innovative solutions to real-world problems in the fire service.”

Master’s Program Cohort 2205/06 Graduates

Master’s Program Cohort 2205/06 

  • Paul Anderson – Deputy Chief of Operations, Tucson Fire Department – Tucson, AZ
  • Nicholas Barker – Captain, New York City Fire Department – Brooklyn, NY
  • Arminda Pereira Bia – Lieutenant, New York City Police Department – New York, NY
  • Douglas Blake – Captain, Roseville Police Department – Roseville, CA
  • John Caton – Business Analytics Team Lead, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 3 – National Preparedness Division – Philadelphia, PA
  • Serena Cheung – Program Analyst, Federal Emergency Management Agency – Oakland, CA
  • Kyle Dowdy – Operations Deputy Chief, Farmington Police Department – Farmington, NM
  • Samuel Duchac – Regional Sector Outreach Coordinator-GS14, Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – Chicago, IL
  • Gregory Flynn – Fire Chief, West Bloomfield Fire Department – West Bloomfield, MI
  • April Ford – Director of Communications, Springfield-Greene County 911 – Webb City, MO
  • Caleb Freeman – Training Division Commander, Redmond Fire Department – Gig Harbor, WA
  • Jason Golden – Battalion Chief, Southern Marin Fire District  – Mill Valley, CA
  • James Greenshields – Training Specialist-Course Manager, FEMA/NPD/EMI – Emmitsburg, MD
  • Andrew Hargarten – Battalion Chief, Milwaukee Fire Department – Milwaukee, WI
  • Jacquelyn Piper Houck – Lieutenant, Cobb County Police Department – Marietta, GA
  • Trevor Jaha – Captain, Savannah Fire Department – Savannah, GA
  • Ryan Johansen – Chief of Police, San Bruno Police Department – San Bruno, CA
  • Elijah Lim – Sergeant, Los Angeles Police Department – La Habra Heights, CA
  • Jennifer Lynch – Intelligence Analyst, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness – Hamilton, NJ
  • Sarah-Maria Marchegiani – Battalion Chief, Arlington County Fire Department – Arlington, VA
  • Shannon Marheine – Deputy Director, CJIS, Oregon State Police – Salem, OR
  • Colin Morneau – Supervisory Immigration Services Officer, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – Santa Clara, CA
  • Rose Mraz – Senior Asylum Officer/EMC/CIP, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – San Francisco, CA
  • Ryan Small – Assistant District Commander, Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia – Rockville, MD
  • Randall Soderquist – Justice of the Peace & Municipal Court Judge, Elko Justice & Municipal Courts – Elko, NV
  • Erika Tejada – Lieutenant, New York City Fire Department – New York, NY
  • Brittany Vera – Senior District Attorney Investigator, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office – Riverside, CA
  • John White – Supervisory Special Agent, Arizona Attorney General’s Office – Phoenix, AZ
  • Maigen Wise – Earthquake Specialist, Federal Emergency Management Agency – Washington, DC

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment |, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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