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Counterterrorism 101

Anti-Terrorism Expert Heads Newest Graduate Program

By Christian Taske ‘07

On a recent Friday morning on the Notre Dame College parking lot near Lawnway Road, student Anthony Rocco slips into an olive-green ordnance disposal suit. Parked behind him is a black and silver bomb disposal vehicle with the door to its round holding tank open, as if ready to accept whatever explosive device needs to be secured. A bomb disposal robot is on alert as members of the Lake County Bomb Squad fix the collar on Rocco’s suit that reaches past his ears.

Classmates watch as Rocco moves stiffly like a robot trying to pick up an item without his knees touching the ground. Members of the bomb squad ask Rocco to lay down and try getting back up. “Try doing this under a vehicle looking for a bomb,” Bomb Tech Chuck Bissler says.

The scene is reminiscent of one from the Academy Award-winning picture “The Hurt Locker,” in which Jeremy Renner plays the member of an Army explosive ordnance disposal team in Iraq. But this is no serious incident by any means. It’s part of a demonstration in Dr. John Hatzadony’s Terrorism & Counterterrorism class.

Dr. Hatzadony brought his anti-terrorism expertise to NDC several years ago as an adjunct professor teaching in the undergraduate intelligence studies program. He has since been hired as the director of the Graduate Program in Security Policy Studies, which will begin this fall.

The master’s program aims to educate current and future strategic analysts, managers and decision-makers for careers in intelligence analysis, emergency management and homeland security. It offers a unique approach to its curriculum, combining theory, policy and practical application – an approach that Dr. Hatzadony says is unprecedented.

“Having worked in intelligence and homeland security for almost 10 years, I have yet to see a professional, all-hands, comprehensive program in the public sphere that really balances the vast security arena that security policy covers,” he says. “They were all missing something, whether they were missing an international threat, intelligence or real-world aspect.”

Terrorism expert: Dr. John Hatzadony
Terrorism expert: Dr. John Hatzadony

Dr. Hatzadony is convinced that his program has the edge by engaging new technology, methodology and an advanced curriculum. Classes include Homeland Security, Terrorism & Counterterrorism, Strategic Leadership, Biodefense and Strategic Intelligence. The coursework consists of case studies and virtual/tabletop exercises, and culminates in a real-world, strategic project from the government or private sector.

The program’s focus is an “all hazards” approach that mirrors the mission of the Department of Homeland Security and aims to prepare professionals for all kinds of disasters, from a terrorist attack, to a flood or even a pandemic outbreak. The degree is enhanced by an interdisciplinary perspective that will integrate knowledge from a variety of fields including criminal justice, public administration, intelligence studies, and biodefense and disease surveillance.

Dr. Hatzadony has extensive experience in many of these fields, as his anti-terrorism background reaches beyond the classroom and dates back to before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

At the time, Dr. Hatzadony was studying terrorism while working on his doctorate at Case Western Reserve University, and there were few experts in the field.  “Anyone who had a little knowledge was considered an expert,” he says.

After finishing his dissertation on intelligence-state relations in Croatia, Dr. Hatzadony took his expertise to the Transportation Security Administration in Cleveland, where he became a field intelligence coordinator. In this role, he served as an analyst, organized multiple presidential and diplomatic protection details with the Secret Service and developed aircraft hijacking training scenarios.

In 2006, he moved on to become an anti-money laundering investigator at KeyBank. He worked on more than 300 anti-money laundering, fraud and terrorist financing cases. From 2009 to 2010, Dr. Hatzadony was also the deputy director of operations for Global Investigations & Analytic Services, where he directed instructional programs in counter-terrorist financing for the financial services and law enforcement communities.

Dr. Hatzadony’s expertise made him the perfect fit for Notre Dame College, say professors Dr. Kelley Cronin and Dr. Gregory Moore, who helped facilitate the introduction of the Master of Arts in Security Policy Studies (SPS).

“It was his addition to the full-time faculty that enabled us to create a stronger and more unique program than we might otherwise have done,” Dr. Moore says. “His enthusiasm and drive since becoming director of the SPS program will undoubtedly contribute greatly to its success.”

Both Dr. Cronin and Dr. Moore wanted the new master’s program to build on Notre Dame’s undergraduate intelligence studies program and complete the College’s Center for Intelligence Studies, which addresses the increasing demand for intelligence analysts since 9/11.

“While the demand for entry-level homeland security professionals has increased substantially, the demand for professionals with more sophisticated levels of competence and readiness has also grown,” Dr. Hatzadony says. “We are not just preparing students for further graduate study but also to lead and prepare for the transition from the line jobs to staff positions.”

Unusual visitor: The Lake County Bomb Squad demonstrates its bomb disposal robot.
Unusual visitor: The Lake County Bomb Squad demonstrates its bomb disposal robot.

The program’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it transcends national security issues, Dr. Moore says. “Beyond the continued international threats to our national security,” he says, “the recent events in Japan serve as a grim reminder of the need to prepare to the best of our ability to deal with the effects of natural disasters.”

The graduate program fits perfectly into Notre Dame’s liberal arts catalog, Dr. Hatzadony says. “Security, whether homeland or international security, is inherently an interdisciplinary field,” he says. “Liberal arts colleges, which aren't wedded to strict subject fields and silo knowledge from students, are the perfect laboratory for this.”

For Notre Dame to continue its growth, the addition of graduate programs has an extra value-added, Dr. Hatzadony says. “Not only for the College generally, but also for the undergraduate programs, because inevitably there will be spillover between the student population and allow the faculty to develop,” he says.

But the M.A. in Security Policy Studies aims to not only attract current undergraduates. Professionals already in the intelligence field and military veterans should be particularly interested.

“Most veterans and intelligence professionals come to the table with one or maybe two particular specialties,” Dr. Hatzadony says. “This field encompasses at least eight overlapping subjects, and this program educates them on what they have not experienced yet, while also allowing them to synthesize their subject-matter expertise.” 

The program is convenient for students all over the country as classes are online, which will allow them to apply their knowledge, interact with classmates and network. But there will also be three strategic weekend visits to campus for on-site, practical exercises. So, the sight of students walking around in bomb disposal suits might be something the College community could get used to soon.

Christian Taske ’07 is the editor and writer at Notre Dame College.