WBU offers degree in Homeland Security

Release Date: July 22, 2008

PLAINVIEW -- Wayland Baptist University is once again expanding its academic offerings within the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences. In an ever-changing political and social world, Wayland administrators feel it is important to offer degrees focusing on an increasing need for experts trained in specific areas. The school’s latest degree offering focuses on training and educating professionals for a career in homeland security.

On the heels of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the federal government formed the Office of Homeland Security. Seven years later, the endeavor is still in its infancy as organizations adjust to new federal mandates, rules and laws governing various aspects of security and law enforcement. In order to stay ahead of the curve academically, Wayland is offering an online master’s degree in public administration, specializing in homeland security.

At the helm of the new project is Denton Lankford, J.D. Lankford has more than 40 years' experience in law enforcement, military service and federal civil service including years of service with the U.S. Treasury Department and Immigration and Naturalization Services, now know as ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Lankford holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in law from the Birmingham School of Law. He has six years of military service with the U.S. Navy and 16 years with the Air Force, retiring in 2000. He also has 16 years of teaching experience at the college and university level.

Lankford was an inspector with the INS the morning the planes struck the World Trade Center in 2001 and has seen the evolution of homeland security first hand.

“The federal government took 39 different agencies - everything from immigration, Border Patrol, customs, Coast Guard, part of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, FEMA, the Department of Agriculture - and put them together in this one large organization,” Lankford said. “Their mission is to protect the homeland.”

Lankford said Homeland Security involves much more than terrorism, threats and weapons of mass destruction. It includes protecting people from natural disasters such as fires, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes as well. With that in mind, he has designed a series of courses that include Survey of Homeland Security, Terrorism and its History, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Special Topics Within Homeland Security. The courses will cover everything form the Patriot Act to FEMA’s responsibility concerning natural disasters.

Lankford said the courses will also focus on preparedness. One of his topics of special interest is child education and making sure children know what to do in case of an emergency.

"Many children in this country no longer have survival skills," he said. "If mom and dad can't get home after an intentional event, then what happens? If something happens to the water supply, do the kids know how to obtain safe drinking water? Has mom stored water and nonperishable food, and do the kids know where they are stored? Does the family have an emergency plan, and have they practiced it?"

Lankford said there is an effective government Web site that teaches children the necessary skills through computer games. These games can be found at dhs.gov.

According to Lankford, the need for basic knowledge and information concerning these issues is ever increasing, and with it the need for trained professionals is increasing as well.

“Every state has an Office of Homeland Security. Every large city has someone in charge of homeland security and every small municipality has someone in charge of a preparedness plan,” he said. “But there are very few universities putting out students who have a homeland security degree.

“The students we are training here, if they have an MPA with a specialization in homeland security, they are a valuable commodity in the federal sector or at the state level. We are one of the first universities that has gotten out ahead of the curve and started these courses.”