Lt. Gen. Burgess addresses counterterrorism graduate students
By Ryan Servant
Citizen Chronicle Writer
DUDLEY — Former director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. (ret.) Ronald L. Burgess Jr. spoke Tuesday at Nichols College about cybersecurity threats to the nation.
Lt. Gen. Burgess was invited to Nichols College on behalf of Allison McDowell-Smith, professor and director of the school’s counterterrorism graduate program. He spoke in front of an audience of more than 50 students and officials.
“Our MSC program, masters of science and counter terrorism, is the first graduate program in the U.S. to focus on violent extremism we are excited to be offering that to our students,” Prof. McDowell-Smith told The Citizen Chronicle.
During his 38-year career in the U.S. Army, and now as senior counsel for National Security Programs, Cyber Programs and Military Affairs at Auburn University in Alabama, Lt. Gen. Burgess served as a driving force in the U.S. intelligence community to safeguard national security interests. As head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a former acting principal deputy director of national intelligence during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidential administrations, respectively, Lt. Gen. Burgess was a key player in the national security arena and was called upon by the presidents and Congress for his expertise.
In 2017, Nichols College Graduate & Professional Studies launched a leadership-focused Master of Science in Counterterrorism developed for those pursuing careers in the fields of intelligence, public policy, and security. Through an innovative in-class and online experience, students learn from counterterrorism experts the factors contributing to the radicalization process of violent extremism, and explore strategies to counter both terrorism and violent extremism. Nichols faculty saw a need to create this program for students once the Department of Homeland Security stressed the importance of countering violent extremism as a top priority for the United States.
“There are lots of routes for our students post graduate beyond federal positions. There are also state and local levels, you may need emergency planners and managers to prepare a community for if there is an event or terrorist attack,” Prof. McDowell-Smith said. “We have individuals who want to get into research to find out how we can combat these events and be proactive.”
“Other areas like think tanks, research organizations, as well on the (non-government organization) side are always trying to understand how we can mitigate the outcomes that are coming our way,” added Lt. Gen. Burgess.
Prof. McDowell-Smith said feedback on the counterterrorism program has been positive, including the interest of the general. “He was very excited about our program, he was impressed with our core classes at the MSC program and also gave some feedback on how we can further the program as we look to future years of the course,” she said.
Lt. Gen. Burgess said he was impressed with the work that Nichols College has put into its program.
“Nichols has a focus on countering violence and extremism. There are a few schools in that area, trying to understand the underlying causes for why we have those types of actions going on,” he asserted. “They have carved out a piece that does not have much in terms of capacity in the U.S., and I applaud what they are doing.”