(TNS) — Albany, N.Y. — The University at Albany has finally secured state approval to launch a bachelor's degree program this fall at its new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.
The university launched the college, the first in the nation to focus on such areas, last year with the help of $15 million in planning money from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget. While the college itself won't open in its long-term home at the Harriman State Office Complex until 2020, students were able to pursue undergraduate minor and graduate certificates this past year from the college's temporary home at UAlbany's downtown campus.
Starting this fall, students will be able to pursue bachelor's degrees at the college now that the State Education Department has approved the proposed four-year program in emergency preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity. Students will receive a liberal arts foundation, with an option to choose from courses in public administration and policy, risk analysis, strategic communications, computer security, digital forensics, health preparedness, extreme weather, disaster response, terrorism and counterterrorism, among other things.
"The launch of the new college of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at SUNY Albany marks a major step forward in the state's drive to train the next generation of leaders in these critical fields," Cuomo said in a statement. "This first-of-its-kind program will equip students with the cutting-edge security and preparedness capabilities they need to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and work to enhance the security of New York and the nation for years to come."
With just one year under its belt, the college's initial offerings have already proved popular. Interim Dean David Rousseau said officials were anticipating about 100 students to minor in the undergraduate program in its first year and were shocked to see 276 students enroll. That made the program the seventh most popular minor at the university (out of 63), behind business, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, communications and English. That gives officials reason to believe that initial projections of 200 student majors will fall far short of actual projections, as well, he said.
"If you open the newspaper on any given day you're reading about terrorist attacks or weather events or cybersecurity hacks," Rousseau said. "So the program has very broad appeal in terms of policy areas. I also think the number of minors were just waiting for the major to open up, so we'll probably see a number of those minors convert over to majors."
A big focus of the major will be real-world learning. Students must complete 100 hours of non-credit training to this end.
To allow this, the college is partnering with public agencies, private companies and nonprofit organizations, including the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, to provide research, internship and training opportunities to students. One such opportunity will be at the State Preparedness Training Center outside the Oneida County village of Oriskany, where students can apply "high-level concepts learned in the classroom to complex simulated real-life threats."
By 2020, the college should be able to open in its new home on a 12-acre corner of the Harriman state office complex, where the state is doing survey work to build a $184 million Emerging Technologies and Entrepreneurial Complex.
The complex will house both the college and the future headquarters for the New York State Mesonet, a weather observation system being developed to better support planning for extreme weather events.
"By all measures, we seem to be ahead of schedule," Rousseau said. "The idea that the college is only a year old and we have a new major that's been approved -- that's a lot faster than any of us thought was possible."
©2016 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.