Dr. Jim Ramsay developed the Homeland Security major at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach campus in 2006. He has a background in biology, chemistry, and health administration, with a PhD in population health. He serves as program coordinator and teaches a variety of Homeland Security classes. Additionally, Dr. Ramsay serves as the faculty co-op/internship advisor. Career Services selected Dr. Ramsay as our very first faculty spotlight due to the rapid growth of the Homeland Security program and the popularity of the degree. He gives readers great insight into the future of the major and potential career growth.
Can you tell us about your background and what motivated you to come to Embry-Riddle?
My background is varied. I have a BS in biology and chemistry, an MBA in health administration and my PhD is in population health (a joint program at the time in preventive medicine and industrial engineering). I’m a certified safety professional and actively serve on several national boards, including the Board of Scientific Counselors in the CDC (appointed by the US Secretary of HHS), the ABET Board of Directors and as the Chair of the Education Standards Committee in ASSE (which sets the academic credentials and accreditation standards for health, safety and environmental academic programs). I arrived at Riddle in June 2006 to begin the Homeland Security academic program on the Daytona Beach campus. Coming to ERAU in 2006 represented an opportunity for me to build something special from scratch with no professional guidance, given that there were just a handful of Homeland Security programs nationwide then. This was a compelling challenge for sure.
As Program Coordinator, can you tell us some of the highlights of the Homeland Security program?
Well the first thing that comes to mind is our phenomenal growth. I was alone in 2006 with no students. The Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security program at Embry-Riddle now offers over 30 sections of courses to over 600 students/semester with 7 faculty. We have the BS in Homeland Security, a minor in Homeland Security, a minor in Terrorism Studies, a minor in Forensic Accounting and a minor in Cybersecurity. Next summer, Homeland Security will move to the College of Arts & Sciences and become a department called “Security Studies and International Affairs” with me as chair. We will most likely add several programs as well, including at least one new graduate program in cybersecurity and diplomacy, a new undergrad program in risk management, resilience and critical infrastructure protection, and a language program, etc. This and the fact that we are considered a leading and venerable program in Homeland Security across the nation where several other schools have emulated our program. I’ve also published how I built the curriculum in a peer reviewed journal (Homeland Security Affairs Journal).
With your background in both industry and academia, what advice can you give to students wanting to pursue a career in homeland security?
Stay flexible and eager and assertive! The field is always in flux. Indeed, just last week the Government Accountability Office issued a report indicating that the name “Homeland Security” is not uniformly defined in the federal government, even after over a decade in existence! Hence students who are successful are always improving their resume, gathering credentials and higher degrees, and keeping their skill sets growing. There are tons of jobs out there in this discipline, and students who are flexible and assertive will find their way to opportunities.
What qualities would an employer look for in an ideal homeland security candidate?
Good question. It rather depends on the sector, but there are the usual suspects of good writing, speaking skills, professionalism, integrity and evidence of involvement. In addition, I’d say employers are generally looking for strategic planning, economic analysis and evidence of critical thinking skills/experiences.
What do you see as the future of homeland security careers?
Another good question! I’d say that Homeland Security is morphing, even now. Environmental security, resilience and sustainability and human security will become more important in the next few years. Homeland Security at one level is a horrible name since most of what happens under the pretense of “Homeland Security” is not security and not domestic…careers in critical infrastructure protection, emergency management, risk management and cybersecurity (as well as information assurance) will be plentiful in both the public and private sectors.