By Curt Yeomans
Clayton State University will soon offer courses in counter-terrorism, disaster planning and bio-defense to students as part of a new undergraduate major in homeland security and emergency management.
The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents approved the creation of the new major Wednesday, during its monthly meeting in Atlanta. The degree program is designed to help students understand, and function in, emergency situations involving natural disasters or national-security threats, according to an executive summary provided to the Board of Regents.
According to a December proposal to the university system, the program would begin in August.
Clayton State will become the second school in the University System of Georgia to offer a bachelor's degree in homeland security, according to university system spokesman John Millsaps. In addition to the Morrow-based school, Savannah State University also offers a bachelor's degree in the field, Millsaps said.
"We try to identify needs that are in the state, and across the nation," Millsaps said. "As areas grow and develop a need for more rigorous training, we try to create programs that meet the need."
Clayton State officials anticipate there will be as many as 35 students enrolled in the homeland-security and emergency-management degree program after its third year, according to the executive summary from the regents' meeting agenda.
University system officials cited, in the summary, Clayton State's proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a reason why the program should be approved. Officials also cited a growing array of federal transportation, health and military agencies.
The summary said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security employs more than 183,000 workers, and is one of the largest federal agencies.
"The program will enable Clayton State University to address regional and local needs for training and educational preparation in the areas of homeland security," university system officials said in the summary. "The program will provide a general education background with specialized knowledge in areas such as emergency management, disaster planning, bio-defense, human and technical intelligence and counter-terrorism."
Students enrolled in the program will have to complete 120 semester-hours of course work, using a curriculum that teaches pupils about counter-terrorism, bio-defense, intelligence, and disaster planning, according to the Board of Regents' executive summary for the program. Elective courses will also be offered in cyber-crime investigation, medical management, international relations and domestic security.
Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ken Davis said Clayton State's curriculum appears to address "your standard areas in homeland security."
Davis said that in addition to the bachelor's degrees at Savannah State and Clayton State, the only other homeland security-related program he is aware of in the state is a graduate-level certificate program in emergency management at Georgia State University.
"That type of profession is really important, especially in these times of heightened security," Davis said. "Right now, there is a shortage of colleges and universities that offer a degree program in homeland security, so I can only be glad to hear Clayton State is adding their own program."
University spokesman John Shiffert said he was not familiar with the details of the program and could not comment. University President Thomas K. Harden and officials from Clayton State's academic affairs office could not be reached for comment.