This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Maureen Moslow-Benway
Assistant professor and program chair

Emergency preparedness has always been a critical aspect of governmental policy at the federal, state and local levels. Response to natural disasters — floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, outbreak of infectious disease — requires pre-disaster planning, mid-disaster operations and postdisaster reconstruction that can only be carried out successfully through a partnership between all levels of government and between the public sector, private sector and civil society. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania the concept of emergency preparedness has been expanded to include the task of homeland security — protecting the U.S. from terrorist-caused disasters. Policy planners and operational responders at all levels of government who had previously focused upon natural disasters now have the added responsibility of preparing for and mitigating the effects of politically inspired terrorist violence.

The program in homeland security and emergency preparedness recognizes this dual nature and is designed to give students both theoretical and practical knowledge that will prepare them for the following: 1) private- or public-sector employment in the expanding area of homeland security as it relates specifically to international and domestic security, as well as emergency preparedness for both security and nonsecurity-related incidents and/or 2) further study in government, international affairs, law enforcement, policy planning or law.

Students will study homeland security and emergency preparedness from a number of perspectives: emergency planning/management principles and practicalities; the nature and effects of natural disasters; the nature of the terrorist threat to the U.S. from both foreign and domestic organizations, including terrorist motives, methods and history; counterterrorism policies ranging from law enforcement to intelligence to the use of military force; vulnerability assessment of public and private infrastructure and institutions; critical infrastructure protection; ethical, constitutional, law enforcement and civil liberties issues related to the prevention of terrorist attacks through surveillance, immigration restrictions and detention; public safety legal questions that arise during governmental responses to natural disaster; intelligence analysis of domestic and international threats; and policy-making topics, such as organizational design and management, interagency processes, and intergovernmental coordination and cooperation within emergency preparedness and counterterrorism institutions at the local, state, federal and international level.

The knowledge and skills acquired through this course of study will enable students to continue their studies at law school or graduate school in a number of areas: business, criminal justice, geography, international affairs, political science, public administration, sociology and urban planning. Students also will be able to pursue employment opportunities in various fields, such as within the government at the local, state and federal level in homeland security and emergency planning/response; law enforcement; intelligence; for-profit and nonprofit research and consultancy; and private sector employment with any business that requires emergency planning expertise to protect critical infrastructure.

Student learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will know and know how to do the following:

  • Analytical concepts and skills
    Students will achieve comprehension of the theory and practice of homeland security and emergency preparedness and be able to analyze policy and synthesize information in four key areas: risk and vulnerability analysis, strategic planning dilemmas of disasters and disaster preparedness, institutional coordination and intelligence operations, and legal/constitutional aspects.
  • Homeland security and emergency preparedness
    Students will achieve comprehension of the theoretical and practical principles of emergency preparedness for both natural disasters and terrorist incidents and be able to analyze key topics related to natural disasters, emergency planning, terrorism and counterterrorism, intelligence, and cybersecurity.
  • Research and policy analysis
    Students will perform research, policy analysis and risk assessment using several methodological and theoretical approaches to homeland security and emergency preparedness.
  • Knowledge of government
    Students will demonstrate a basic knowledge of the workings of the American government and the international system. 
  • Oral and written presentation
    Students will develop advanced skills in expository writing and oral presentation.
  • Evaluation
    Students will be able to evaluate scholarly and practitioner analyses of homeland security and emergency preparedness topics.