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In 2017, Arizona State University's School of Politics and Global Studies, with the Center on the Future of War, launched an online master’s degree program in global security and now, one year later, the program is celebrating its first graduating class.
The MA educates students from different backgrounds who study at their own pace, from anywhere in the world, often while working. Students range in age from their early 20s to mid-70s, around half are active duty U.S. military or veterans, and the participants vary widely in terms of their professional experiences and career interests. Some are deeply involved in human rights and international development, others are focused on intelligence and defense issues and still others on training and higher education.
Timothy Ayers, a 2018 graduate of the MA, worked full-time for the State Department while balancing home life and his coursework. Prior to pursuing graduate school, Ayers spent more than a decade overseas dealing with security matters and international trade relations which he cites as key motivations for selecting the program.
“I was going through the VA’s website and, since I was using the GI Bill to pay for my education, I searched for international relations programs and found the master of arts in global security program,” he said.
The program features lectures and content by some of the nation’s most influential global security thinkers including general officers, former high-ranking officials at the State Department and the National Security Council, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, human rights activists, retired special operations officers and best-selling authors.
“The strongest aspect of the MA is the instructor depth. After that, it is the diverse student body which allowed for intelligent discussion boards each and every week,” Ayers said.
The MA includes a required capstone course in which students produce individual projects that build on skills and issues they learned while in the program. This year, a group of students briefed United States Special Operations Command on a collaborative research project focusing on the role of big data in international security.
“There are few, if any, online programs that can offer the experience to take part in applying theory and coursework you learned to problems that government or private industries have asked for your input on,” said DJ Gering, a graduate of the program.
The master’s degree program provides excellent career training for students who are working in or who aspire to careers in diplomacy, international development, the military, security, global management and humanitarian aid.
“I was interested in international relations and homeland security during my search for programs. This program seemed to blend those fields and helped to enhance my background in emergency management,” global security graduate Alexander Suggs said.
The program is based on the idea that understanding the rapidly changing nature of conflict and international relations requires a strong grounding in foundational ideas and concepts along with focused intellectual and writing skills to support complex interdisciplinary analysis. The master’s program graduates have gained useful training and knowledge to grapple with today’s global security challenges and pursue a variety of careers.
“The quality of instruction provides an advanced level of knowledge and perspectives that invoke advanced learning, thought and debate,” said Michael Fior, who is pursuing a career in global security policy. “This will help me craft policy recommendations in a government and private sector role.”