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SPA Launches Graduate Terrorism Program

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Washington, D.C., is the epicenter for the study of terrorism, and with the launch of a new graduate concentration within the Department of Justice, Law, and Society (JLS), AU is grooming the next generation of policy makers, law enforcement agents, and homeland security experts.

JLS — one of three departments within the School of Public Affairs (SPA) — launched the terrorism and security policy concentration this fall. Twenty-two master of science candidates are already enrolled in the program.

“The department is committed to doing high quality research on important public policy issues related to crime, law, and justice. Terrorism work fits solidly into that mission,” said JLS chair Ed Maguire.

“In building this concentration of scholarly and policy-relevant expertise, the department will become a major voice in debates about how to prevent terrorism and violent extremism,” continued Maguire, who added that a research center and certificate programs are in the works.

SPA has long held terrorism expertise in JLS professors Richard Bennett and Brian Forst. With the addition of professors Joseph Young and Stephen Tankel — who are among 33 new tenure-line faculty at AU — the department has even greater breadth of talent and expertise.

Young, who comes to AU from Southern Illinois University, has written extensively on terrorism, insurgency, civil war, and interstate war. Long focused on ethnic conflict — a research interest sparked by the Rwandan genocide in 1994 — Young turned his attention to political violence after 9/11.

“Washington is the premier location for understanding the causes and consequences of terrorism,” said Young, who’s consulted on a Department of Defense initiative focusing on countering violent extremism. “AU has a lot of untapped potential, and I’m excited that they’re investing the time in energy in this new program.”

Tankel’s research on insurgency, terrorism, and the evolution of nonstate armed groups has taken him around the world, to Algeria, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, and the Balkans. Author of 2011’s Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tankel is a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment in the South Asia program.

First-year grad student Ben Shelor, who holds a bachelor’s in justice from SPA, was drawn to the program by the faculty, particularly Tankel, who he said is “the most knowledgeable professor I have had at AU.

“I’m interested in the intelligence analysis and policy fields so I was looking for courses and professors that would give me the best introduction to those areas,” said Shelor, who hopes to pursue a career in intelligence or law enforcement with the federal government or a private contractor.

“The close relationship of many faculty members to practitioners in the real world should help me greatly in landing a job,” he added.

Dissecting the Terrorism and Security Policy Concentration

Students must complete 33 credit hours and pass a written comprehensive exam. Required classes include:

  • two justice research classes
  • two justice foundation classes, usually terrorism, crime and public policy and criminological theory
  • four of the following JLS offerings: topics in terrorism and security policy (topics change each semester), constitution and criminal procedure, justice and public policy, justice in the face of terror, advanced seminar in policing, and law and human rights
  • three of the following SIS, SOC, SPA, and CAS classes: crisis communication, principles of national security, concepts of justice, religion and violence, transnational security challenges, bioterror in the 21st century, political risk analysis, insurgency and counterinsurgency, and corruption, cybercrime, espionage, and warfare (list is not comprehensive)