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We sat down with John Terpinas, Professor Of Practice for Northeastern’s Homeland and National Security programs in the College of Professional Studies, to learn more about his work and research interests. 


John Terpinas

Q:  What is your specialty within the security discipline, and what research are you currently focused on?

My specialties include counterterrorism, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, national security, homeland security, and inter-agency operations. I am currently focusing my research on the recent uptick in the criminalization of political differences, the impair on civil discourse, and the harms it causes.

Q: What drew you to this field?

I always wanted to serve our country. My mom also worked for the U.S. Secret Service for over twenty years, which I am sure impacted me in many ways.

Q: Tell me more about your career before coming to Northeastern. 

Prior to joining Northeastern, I was an assistant professor of national security, intelligence, and criminal justice at Fairmont State University, in Fairmont, West Virginia for three years. Before that, I was a supervisory special agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for 21 years. I retired in 2016.

During my FBI career, I held several potions including:

  • Director of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest, Hungary
  • FBI Chair and assistant professor of national security studies at the Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C.
  • Adjunct instructor at the University of Virginia
  • FBI leadership instructor in the Leadership Development Institute at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia
  • Numerous leadership positions within the FBI’s National Security Division and Counterterrorism programs both in the field and at FBI headquarters. This tenure included leadership positions in the U.S. Intelligence Community where I served as the Director of Law Enforcement and Investigations in the White House, Executive Office of the President, Homeland Security Council, and Counterterrorism Directorate.
  • Counterterrorism specialist in the FBI Chicago, Illinois Division, where I was a member of the Chicago FBI enhanced SWAT Team and an FBI certified Special Agent Bomb Technician (SABT).

Before joining the FBI, I was an assistant state’s attorney in the criminal division of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in Chicago, Illinois.

Q: Where do you see the future of the field headed? How can students prepare to meet the changing demands?

The field of national and homeland security is an ever-changing field. Students need to be able to look out into the future and apply practical skills learned in the classroom coupled with critical thinking skills developed in the classroom in order to meet the challenges.

Q: What attracted you to Northeastern University and CPS? 

The awesome reputation, the world-renown faculty, and the mission of the College of Professional Studies.

Q: What course are you teaching this year?

I will be teaching the Unconventional Threats to Homeland Security course, which introduces the operational and organizational dynamics of terrorism. The course considers those who act as individuals, in small groups, or in large organizations and indigenous actors, as well as those who come to the United States to raise money, recruit, or commit their acts of violence.

Q: Are there any industry-related books or publications that have influenced you?

God Has Ninety-Nine Names by Judith Miller.

Q: Can you share any fun facts about yourself?

I have completed an Ironman Triathlon and played professional basketball in Scotland and Greece!


To learn more about the esteemed faculty of Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies, visit https://cps.northeastern.edu/faculty/.