The Nation’s First Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Program
From the California wildfires to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, natural disasters and global pandemics continually remind us that people need to take the right actions quickly when emergencies strike. Born of this understanding, the Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (HSEP) online degree program provides an in-depth education that takes students far beyond emergency preparedness and the curriculum of traditional national security programs, teaching them the decision-making, leadership and policymaking skills they need to protect their communities from the unpredictable and unexpected.
Why Earn Your Master’s in HSEP From L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU?
Best Public Affairs Graduate Schools Nationally
Tied for Best Public Affairs Program in Virginia
Schools of Public Affairs and Public Management and Leadership Programs
Source: U.S. News & World Report, 2022
Is this program right for you?
The HSEP master’s program prepares you to lead and support first responders and rescuers to protect against domestic and global threats. Students learn from one another’s unique perspectives, with backgrounds in law enforcement, intelligence, intel analysis, cybersecurity, the military, engineering, fire science, health care, immigration, disaster relief and more. Graduates move on to become planners, resource managers and partners in educating the communities they serve, and they share their experiences with a cohort of diverse learners from different backgrounds and varied professional experiences.
Shield your community from the unpredictable and unknown.
Become a well-rounded expert to protect against natural disasters, cyber attacks, and terrorist threats through policy and action.
Take your career — and your service — to the next level.
Broaden your skill set in the first program in the nation specializing in both emergency preparedness and homeland security.
Excel in your academic or professional life.
Enroll in a program designed for traditional students and midcareer professionals to grow within roles in intelligence, cybersecurity, homeland security, emergency management, and more.
What to Expect
Schedule a consultation to learn more
What You’ll Learn
Prepare communities for the unexpected.
Become a well-rounded leader in a variety of fields to make the world a safer and better place for everyone.
See beyond policymaking and implementation.
Understand the larger organizational, social, political, ethical and economic aspects of disaster studies.
Partner for the big picture.
Collaborate to protect against threats to our infrastructure, public safety, cybersecurity, public health and more.
HSEP 628 - Cyber Security Law and Policy
This course offers a survey of emerging strategic, legal and policy issues associated with computer network attack, exploitation and defense. Students will be introduced to research and developments across a range of issues and will engage with topics related to national security, homeland security and economic policy, and local governance. This course is designed to provide students with perspective on different technical, theoretical and policy issues and to enhance knowledge of cyber conflict conducted by both state and non-state actors.
Faculty: Chris Whyte
HSEP 601 - Emergency Management
An advanced analytical examination of emergency management, including mitigation (designing programs to reduce the risk to vulnerable targets/infrastructure), preparedness (response planning and training, particularly interagency and intergovernmental agreements on joint operations and burden sharing), response (actual operations during and after a terrorist attack or natural disaster) and recovery (maintaining services in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and the long term). Through discussions of theory and numerous case studies, students will be able to identify and investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the current practice of emergency management in the U.S.
HSEP 620 - Private Sector Preparedness
A survey of the private sector’s dilemmas and responsibilities in homeland security and emergency preparedness. Class will focus on issues such as the critical emergency management functions for private industry (resumption, recovery, restoration, continuity); the question of “how much security is enough”; and the central dilemma of private sector-public sector security and preparedness: the overwhelming majority of critical infrastructure is privately owned, yet it is the government’s responsibility to prepare, protect and reconstitute it. Information sharing, communications and regulatory issues are examined.
HSEP 502 - Terrorism
An introduction to the theoretical and practical aspects of terrorism and counter-terrorism. Provides a broad overview of the general use of terrorism as a political tool and the idiosyncratic strategies and tactics used by specific terrorist groups. Focuses upon the relationships between terrorism and religion, technology, globalization and organizational design (network organizations). The counter-terrorism policies of various nations are examined in terms of strategic purpose, implementation and success.
Faculty: David Webber
HSEP 501 - Institutional Challenges of Security Preparedness
A detailed examination of the post-9⁄11 institutional transformation within the U.S. Both the theoretical and practical aspects of the new environment of homeland security and emergency preparedness are examined in the context of local, state and federal government, as well as the private and nonprofit sectors. The dilemmas of coordination, collaboration, competition and decision-making across and within governmental levels and between government and other sectors are explored.
Faculty: Will Pelfrey
HSEP 602 - Government, Industry, and Strategic Planning
An examination of the guiding principles of strategic planning and the manner in which strategic plans can be used to better identify resource requirements and a prioritized acquisition process. Analyzes the strategic planning goal of designing a coordinated and unified effort that is all inclusive of the multiple agencies (governmental and nonprofit), distinct communities and private industries that have a role in and are impacted by natural disasters or terrorist incidents.
Faculty: Brie Haupt
HSEP 603 - Risk Assessment
An introduction to the assessment and management of risk. Focuses on analytical techniques that assess risk; the primary application will be threats to critical infrastructure. Students will learn to conduct a risk and vulnerability analysis of a specific target, city or region using various assessment techniques and to manage that risk by assessing the efficacy of both prevention and response measures. The techniques covered will be both quantitative and qualitative.
Faculty: Hans Louis-Charles
HSEP 650 - Public Health
An examination of the role of the public health sector in preparing for and responding to natural disasters, emerging infectious diseases, catastrophic terrorism and bioterrorism. The class focuses on coordination and cooperation of federal, state and local government and the public-, private- and nonprofit-sector components of the public health infrastructure. Topics include epidemiological and mental health issues related to disasters, command/communication concerns, national stockpile management, surge planning, all-hazard planning and exercise design.
Faculty: Sarah Raskin
HSEP 610 - Law Enforcement Policy and Judicial Precedent
An examination of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies’ evolving policies on crisis and consequence management, as well as court decisions guiding these policies and interpreting their implementation. Students will engage in case-study analysis while learning the fundamentals of policy development. Course content will include analysis and discussion of relevant statutes and court cases, and the issues, processes and procedures associated with the development and implementation of judicial policies that attempt to balance civil rights and homeland security, as well as legal aspects of natural disasters and public health crises.
HSEP 690 - Capstone
A capstone and assessment course. Readings, writing assignments and the large research project are designed to allow students to use the sum of their knowledge and analytical skills to examine homeland security and emergency preparedness in a broad and comprehensive way. Students will engage in research linked to a role-playing simulation/exercise that will be held when the class meets in the last week of the semester.
Faculty: Chris Whyte
HSEP 623 - Research Methods
Introduction to the scope and methods of applied research for the public sector. Focuses on problem structuring through logical methods, exploring problems through observation and other methods of data collection, analyzing and summarizing findings using both qualitative and quantitative methods.
Faculty: Will Pelfrey
HSEP 640* - Intelligence
This is a Special Topics in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness course. The Fall 2019 course title is Intelligence. This course begins with a brief examination of the history and evolution of the U.S. Intelligence Community, focusing on individual agencies, their missions and jurisdictions, as well as their relations with the remainder of the U.S. national security community. From there, students will explore the “Intelligence Process” and gain an understanding of requirements, collections, processing, exploitation, analysis and dissemination. Students will understand how intelligence is used in national level policy and decision-making. From there, students will focus on contemporary issues associated with the intelligence community, such as counterintelligence, counterespionage and covert action. Lastly, the course will conclude with an examination of the dangers of the politicization of intelligence, leaks and whistleblowing.
* Please note HSEP 640 may be repeated with different topics.
Faculty: Maureen Moslow-Benway
Meet Our Faculty
Key Dates and Deadlines
|Early Decision Application Deadline|
|Priority Application Deadline|
|Final Submit Deadline||December 2, 2022|