Security Studies

The field of security studies addresses the causes of war and peace within a nation state or the international system. Security studies is closely tied to the study of government, since security is a key public good that governments seek to provide for their citizens. Security failures are often the result of government failures to maintain a stable domestic environment or to address international challenges. International organizations also play an important role in establishing security, through conflict resolution, arms control, and deployment of various resources.

Can the government of the United States really guarantee that there will never be another attack on U.S. soil, either by terrorists or by another country, or even by a ‘disgruntled’ individual intent on committing mass violence and destruction? How can a community, a city, a university campus, or even an entire country be resilient in the face of a sudden military attack, a flood, the collapse of a bridge, the disruption of a major port, cyber warfare, a disease epidemic, the accidental poisoning of a major drinking water source, or climate change?

The 21st century has ushered in a growing awareness that traditional concepts of security, centered around conventional armed conflicts, nuclear deterrence, weapon proliferation and arms control, asymmetrical warfare, and state-sponsored terrorism, must be broadened to include emerging new threats. The large number of individual lives in potential jeopardy as a result of such risks as failing infrastructure, mass migrations, pandemic outbreaks, transnational crime, and severe storms associated with climate change, is leading institutions, policymakers, and academics to reconsider long-established patterns for managing security challenges. The consequences are profound for the practice and study of national and international security.

Security studies is a key component of the undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Political Science, and is interdisciplinary in its scope. Its courses range from a focus on national defense and international security, terrorism, and governance in the cyber age, to courses on the environment, science and technology, policy, and religious, national, and ethnic conflict that address key elements of both traditional and non-traditional security issues.

The Department of Political Science’s growing emphasis on security studies coincides with the establishment of Northeastern’s new Kostas Research Institute which focuses on issues surrounding homeland security, cyber security, safeguarding critical infrastructure, and advancing societal resilience. The teaching and research interests of at least nine professors in political science, including the founding co-director for the Kostas Institute and two political science faculty members who have a joint appointment in the College of Computer and Information Science, address traditional and non-traditional security issues. This allows the Department to be a major contributor in the new interdisciplinary university-wide center of excellence on security studies. As of Fall 2014 the Department offers a new Master’s of Science in Security and Resilience Studies.

Faculty and students are working together across the disciplines throughout the university, including engineering and computer science, to address security challenges and to build a more resilient society. Political Science students in security studies (regardless of whether they are focused on the study of international relations, public policy, law and legal issues, or American politics) will be encouraged to do co-op jobs and/or internships in agencies, businesses, law firms, and government organizations concerned with both long-standing and emerging security issues.

Drawing upon the academic and experiential foundation provided by Northeastern’s university-wide commitment to help redefine and guide the study and practice of security in the new millennium, Department of Political Science students and graduates will be prepared to make important contributions to building a safer, more resilient world.