By Ryan Connelly
Rider had its second biennial homeland security conference on April 3 in the fireside lounge.
Adam McMahon, director of the homeland security masters program, set up the event, while associate professor of political science Michael Brogan and assistant professor of political science Elizabeth Radziszewski contacted the speakers.
There were nine speakers and each one of them talked about their occupation and the current threats they have been researching in their lines of work.
“The event brought in leading practitioners in the field to present to students with an overview of the different aspects of homeland security,” said Brogan. “The event provided an opportunity to network with leaders in the field to learn more about internships and professional opportunities in homeland security. The event also provided a nice connection for students to see and hear directly from leaders in the field in order to connect course work with practice.”
Individuals from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness were in attendance and they spoke about high profile terrorism cases that originated in New Jersey, including an incident at the North Elizabeth, New Jersey, transit station. No one was hurt because the public spotted the bomb and authorities were able to prevent it from going off.
“It’s stories like that, like real life scenarios that happen right here in New Jersey that convince students that the threat is real,” said McMahon. “It seems abstract in the classroom but it’s actually something that could impact our own lives. So, that was really important and it also sort of gave a range to students of where you can take studying homeland security. It’s not just local at the state level, its at the national level, its academic, it’s everywhere.”
Attending the event were students, staff, faculty and alumni. There were over 50 undergraduate and graduate students in attendance over the various segments.
Terrorism and threats were a big part of the presentations. Scott Nawrocki, a federal agent for 19 years, talked about terrorists developing a disease that could kill off mass amounts of people.
“It’s something crazy but it’s something people in charge have to think about. How do we deal with that? Could there be a disease that kills off X amount of the population?” asked McMahon. “I heard positive feedback from students about that presentation.”
Seden Akcinaroglu is an associate professor of political science at Binghamton University. She specializes in researching domestic issues.
“Her talk was about Turkey and how they’ve dealt with terrorism,” said McMahon. “A lot of our speakers were dealing with domestic issues. Homeland security also involves international issues because many other countries are dealing with terrorism as well. So, one of the questions is, how do you stop terrorism? Do countries negotiate with terrorists? It’s a common line in the United States, we do not negotiate with terrorists. Sometimes countries do and her research was looking into how Turkey dealt with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist group. She was investigating how the public felt when concessions were made.”
Terrorist groups try to make good with the public by offering them benefits that their government cannot such as health care and vaccines. They do this to try to shift the perception of the people. This is what is going on with the PKK in Turkey and what Akcinaroglu specializes in researching.
“It was a good way for students to see how their degree and what they’re doing in the classroom can be applied in real life,” said McMahon. “Not just looking at it from a perspective of how do I get a job, that’s one component of it, but also see these individuals and their different occupations.”