UNL wins $3 million grant for national security education consortium

Released on 09/21/2009, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., September 21st, 2009 —

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received a $3 million grant sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to establish the Great Plains National Security Education Consortium, as a part of the Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence program. The consortium will provide academic, research, cultural immersion and outreach activities focused on national security-related topics to students with diverse interests and backgrounds.

"This exciting project will offer significant new opportunities for Nebraska students in many disciplines and help prepare them to compete in the global marketplace," said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman. "The grant funds the creation of new courses in fields ranging from Chinese and Arabic language and culture to remote sensing and nuclear detection research, and will help establish internship and career opportunities with a wide range of federal agencies."

The consortium is a partnership of UNL, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Creighton University and Bellevue University. An affiliated Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence program, the University of Washington's Institute for National Security Education and Research, will provide evaluation and planning services. A central goal of the consortium is to develop students who have the knowledge of international and cultural issues, proficiency in foreign languages and skills in research, analysis and critical thinking required of professionals employed in the 16 federal agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

"A real strength of this program is the partnership among four Nebraska institutions that reach a diverse mix of students and bring strengths in different disciplines," said Prem Paul, principal investigator on the grant and UNL vice chancellor for research and economic development. "Together we can establish new connections with important federal agencies seeking to develop and diversify their workforce, and who need exactly the kind of dedication and talent our Nebraska students provide."

Another key goal for the consortium is to establish an Intelligence Studies Certificate available to any student at a partner institution. The certificate will enable a student pursuing a degree in any discipline, from agronomy to political science to information technology, to acquire knowledge and competencies relevant to national security and intelligence careers. A consortium scholars program will fund mentored research training and international language and cultural immersion experiences for 50 students during the course of the five-year grant.

An annual colloquium focused on a current national security topic and featuring nationally-recognized speakers will be open to students and faculty throughout the region. The consortium also will build on existing outreach programs and develop initiatives aimed at high school and community college students, particularly those from under-represented groups, to encourage them to participate in consortium programs and to continue their secondary education.

Consortium partners attract students from many different demographics with diverse interests and each will develop and offer courses and research experiences in disciplines unique to its institution. UNL will develop courses for a new minor and major in China studies, Middle Eastern language and culture, and courses and research experience in the physics and engineering of nuclear detection techniques.

UNO will develop a graduate certificate in global information operations and summer institutes in information security, remote sensing and global information systems. "UNO is pleased to be a partner in this consortium," said Chancellor John Christensen. "National security information assurance is one of UNO's strongest research areas. Funding from this grant will enable us to extend the impact of our research and teaching in this and related areas and help us prepare more future professionals for their careers."

Creighton University is developing a minor in research and analysis design and a master's degree in quantitative information problem solving. "Our program in quantitative information problem solving is a perfect fit to the consortium goals, focusing on the application of analytical tools to international relations, security and economics," said Patrick Borchers, Creighton's vice president for academic affairs. "This grant enables us to further develop the program to the master's degree level."

Bellevue University's focus is on online course development, including a three-course certificate sequence on U.S. intelligence structures, systems and roles; an online master's degree in world security and strategic studies; and conversion of a three-course strategic deterrence certificate to make if available online. "When we initially proposed this project for the consortium, there was some concern regarding the short timeframe," said Mary B. Hawkins, Bellevue president. "The key success factor was a unique, collaborative response from the partners to create a significant opportunity for the state. Components within the GP-NSEC program will seamlessly compliment the university‚ēís active-learning approach and provide an exciting avenue for new career choices for our students."

The consortium's management team includes: director Ellen Weissinger, dean of Graduate Studies at UNL; deputy director Marc Warburton; and assistant directors Jack Shroder, UNO; Terry Clark, Creighton; and Donna McDaniel, Bellevue.

The consortium will join six other new centers and 14 existing centers at universities funded through the Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence program. The program was established in 2005 to meet the nation's increasing need for a diverse workforce of intelligence community professionals educated and trained with the unique knowledge, skills and capabilities to carry out U.S. national security objectives. Sixteen federal agencies make up the intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, FBI, the Department of State, Department of the Treasury, the National Reconnaissance Office and 10 other agencies.