Communication fuels the next generation of homeland security leaders


First published in Government Security News 5.10.2011

Paul Masso, a graduate student in Drexel University’s M.S. in Professional Studies with a concentration in homeland security management, understood that the technicalities of homeland security were only the beginning of a fundamental education in the field. He knew that, more importantly perhaps, he needed to learn, in his own words, “The importance of effective communication among co­workers, as well as upper management, to provide the wanted outcome.”

Significantly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) understands this need as well. In 2008, DHS released a document titled, Department of Homeland Security Information Sharing Strategy, that outlines specific guidelines for both how and when information is to be shared among all of the agencies that comprise DHS. The document makes special note of the area of communications, stating that a key part of the strategy is to, “Identify the most effective vehicles to deliver coordinated and useful messages and develop standardized procedures for communications; and assess the status of our communications vehicles and identify improvement opportunities.”

In other words, the need for a clear and comprehensive communications plan is evident to DHS. The next generation of homeland security professionals will not just benefit from an understanding of the basics of communications; they will be required to possess such skills.

As part of the team that was central to the creation and development of Drexel University’s M.S. in Professional Studies with a concentration in homeland security management, Dr. Ann Solan, Director of Multidisciplinary & Emerging Programs, the parent unit to Drexel’s M.S., immediately seized on the need for better communications within the field.

“Even before the launch of our program in the fall of 2009,” Dr. Solan noted, “and up until today, my team and I had attended a number of education­related conferences in Homeland Security.” These conferences, including the Annual Homeland Defense and Security Summit run by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, stressed one thing above all else. “Communication was at the top of everyone’s agenda,” said Dr. Solan.

The message was loud and clear, and Dr. Solan immediately employed the assistance of fellow Drexel professor, Dr. Nick Linardopoulos, an alumnus of Drexel’s M.S. in Communication. What emerged was a course that became a core undertaking of each student in the homeland security management program, PRST 501: Communication for Professionals.

“Rather than simply focusing on established communication theories, this course was developed from the working adult’s perspective,” said Dr. Linardopoulos, “and incorporates among other things videos and case studies from the contemporary workplace that highlight the practical applications of the communication theories.” Dr. Linardopoulos also noted that one of the main goals of the course is that it must be relevant to working professionals in the field of homeland security and government services.

Paul Masso can attest to the relevance of the course. “The diverse amount of communication information has made it easier for me to communicate with everyone on a daily basis,” he noted, “while being able to ensure that the message I am delivering is being received correctly.”

It is this relevance that puts the study of communications at the heart of homeland security.


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