Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Earl 'Gip' Seaver
Earl “Gip” Seaver


NIU takes leadership role
in new homeland security alliance

October 9, 2007

by Joe King

Eight public universities from across the state have joined forces to create the Illinois Innovative Delivery of Education Alliance - Homeland Security.

It pushes Illinois to the forefront of efforts to provide students and professionals with the education required to help America prepare for, and respond to, emergencies of all types.

Signing on as charter members of the alliance are NIU, Western Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Governors State University, Chicago State University and Illinois State University.

Under the cooperative agreement, a student at any alliance university will be able to enroll in online homeland security courses offered at any other member institution without concerns about billing, transfer of credits or other issues typically related to taking courses at another school. Students will not have to be admitted to, billed by or visit the institution offering the course.

“The process for students will be transparent, just as if they were enrolling in a course offered by their home institution,” said NIU Vice Provost Earl “Gip” Seaver, who was elected to serve as chair of the board that will oversee the alliance.

Other NIU personnel helping to lead the organization are retired NIU Professor Ellen Parham, who is serving as state coordinator for the alliance. Mary Pritchard, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, and Anne Kaplan, vice president for Administration and University Outreach, serve as principal investigators on the project. Alan Robinson, the director of outreach for the College of Health and Human Sciences, is the NIU campus coordinator for the alliance.

Members of the IDEA-HS chose to band together for several reasons.

All faced the challenge of meeting an important educational need, and none had the resources to create a program to quickly meet that need from scratch. Furthermore, member institutions realized that by working together they would be able to provide their students access to top experts from around the state.

“The need is so great and the issue so important that the participating universities felt compelled to find innovative ways to address this issue,” Seaver said. “We quickly realized that by using the latest technology we could improve the quality of the education we provide, while at the same time avoid the expense of creating individual programs that duplicate services. It’s a win for everyone involved.”

The goal of the alliance is to help meet the growing demand for individuals trained to prepare for, react to and recover from all types of emergencies, from natural disasters to pandemics to terrorist attacks. Such individuals are needed to fill jobs with agencies at all levels of government and in private industry.

Job descriptions run the gamut from chemists trained in reacting to chemical attacks or industrial accidents to architects and engineers who ensure the safety of infrastructure to business operations experts who create and execute continuity plans to ensure that a company can remain viable during and after a major emergency.

Currently, three of the alliance schools have programs in place that allow students to earn certificates or degrees in topics specifically related to homeland security:

  • NIU – five graduate level certificates (biochemical sciences, cyber-security, environmental and hazards risk assessment, health science and manufacturing and industrial technology), with undergraduate certificates available in all of those areas except cyber-security
  • EIU – graduate level certificate in technology security
  • WIU – bachelor’s degree in emergency management, minor in homeland security

Classes will be available online beginning in the fall semester of 2008 with offerings from NIU, WIU and GSU. Alliance schools are working to develop further online courses to expand the catalog.

The work of the IDEA-HS is funded by a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.