Campus & Community

Stevens Educates the Next Generation of Maritime Security Leaders

 The next generation of highly skilled maritime security leaders and practitioners has arrived at Stevens Institute of Technology.  Keenly aware of the challenges the country faces when it comes to homeland security, Stevens has worked with both government and industry sponsors to develop programs and initiatives that keep the country and its citizens better protected from a variety of maritime and port security threats.

As such, the progressive and innovative university created a Master of Science degree in Maritime Systems and a Graduate Certificate in Maritime Security. According to Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer Jr. School of Engineering & Science and Director, National Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce (CSR), they are designed to “enhance the knowledge base, technical skills, and leadership capabilities of our nation’s current and future maritime security workforce.”

 In fall 2010 Stevens was awarded its first Department of Homeland Security Career Development Grant to provide fellowship awards for three U.S. students to pursue full-time graduate studies in a homeland security focused Master’s degree program in Maritime Systems. The DHS-funded fellowships provide tuition support and stipends to high-achieving, high-potential students throughout their Master’s Degree programs.

The fellowships were awarded to three students – Christopher Francis, Brandon Gorton and Danielle Holden – who plan to pursue careers and advanced research in the maritime and homeland security arena.

Holden, who will join the fellowship program in June 2011, is currently completing a Bachelor of Science degree in marine sciences and physical oceanography with a minor in mathematics from Rutgers University. Her interest lies in the fusion of using ocean technologies for tracking boats and vessels and forming and implementing strategies to prevent the smuggling of drugs, terrorism and other threats into America’s ports.  

“I am interested in how this fusion increases resilience, improves the safety of consumers, and protects those who import and carry goods to consumers,” she explained.

Throughout her undergraduate degree program, Danielle has conducted cutting-edge research in collaboration with faculty from Rutgers University’s Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory (COOL).  In 2009, Danielle participated in the COOL Lab’s successful transatlantic deployment of an underwater glider from the shores of New Jersey to the coast of Spain.  The first voyage of its kind by an underwater glider, the Slocum glider (RU27) is now on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Through her work conducted on the RU27, Danielle also engaged in the North America-Norway educational program (NORUS).  Through her research in the area of High Frequency (HF) radar, Danielle earned a trip to Norway where she worked with an international team of student researchers to conduct marine monitoring and ocean observation experiments.

Emerging threats against our nation’s maritime system, both man-made and natural disasters, have created new and complex challenges for today’s maritime professionals, explained Dr. Bruno.

Stevens has a long-history of developing pioneering technologies and providing education in support of the marine transportation system, marine domain awareness, offshore engineering, emergency response and maritime system resilience. Over the last several decades Stevens has worked to build programs and attract faculty that will expertly train the next generation of maritime leaders and security workforce practitioners.

The fellowship, a 30-credit degree program, provides full-tuition support and greater opportunities for the students to pursue a homeland security focused Master’s Degree in Maritime Systems with a Graduate Certificate in Maritime Security. The program facilitates direct pathways for the highly-skilled students to obtain technical leadership positions in the maritime security arena, following completion of their degrees.

Dr. Thomas Wakeman, Research Professor and Deputy Director for the CSR and Dr. Barry Bunin, Research Professor and Chief Architect, Maritime Security Laboratory, serve as the Maritime Systems and Maritime Security program directors.

“These environments provide the resources needed to complete significant, team-based projects,” said Gorton. “I am eager to fulfill the field requirements which this work necessitates as well as take part in collaborative meetings between various stakeholders within the maritime domain.”

Gorton, who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management Technology from Western Michigan University, and who served as a DHS Scholar at the Savannah River National Laboratory, quotes Theodore Roosevelt when asked about his interest in keeping the country more secure: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” 

Gorton began his education in the fellowship program this semester and is currently enrolled in three Master’s degree courses in Maritime Systems. Going forward he aspires to “earn a noteworthy leadership position where I will lead by example. In this position, I will value innovation and discovery second only to fair and ethical practices to build a strong, unified team of men and women that embody the characteristics required to optimize the nation’s preparedness level.”

It is that kind of confidence and determination that the country needs as it faces new threats.

“Our current and next generation of maritime leaders and security workforce practitioners must be well grounded in the emerging science and technologies needed to inform and support our nation’s maritime security policies and directives,” said Dr. Wakeman.

The third student chosen for the fellowship is Chris Francis, who is currently completing his undergraduate degree in Naval Engineering at Stevens. This is a second bachelor’s for Chris, who previously earned a music degree from New York University.  Chris’ interest in maritime security came from a deep love and passion for sailing, which ultimately led to his new career path. Stevens is home to the world renowned Davidson Laboratory, which has developed new maritime technologies since its founding more than 75 years ago. Francis said it was the laboratory that first brought him to the University. 

He said that during his time at Stevens “my eyes have been opened to a larger variety of fields to which a degree in naval engineering can lead.”

Chris is currently working on a Senior Design project focused on the forensic and engineering analysis of semi-submersible vessels to assist law enforcement in the interdiction of such vessels used by drug traffickers. His career goals are to build upon his skills as a naval engineer and assist in the development of new maritime security technologies and capabilities through his continued research and course work in the Maritime Systems Master’s degree program. 

“There is a great number of ways in which a naval engineer can contribute in the maritime security field,” he said.

Stevens is home to three maritime-focused research centers, the Center for Maritime Systems (CMS), the Maritime Security Laboratory (MSL) and the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence – Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce (CSR), each of which provide unique educational and research opportunities for students to collaborate with maritime security researchers, and gain invaluable hands-on research experience.

During the tenure of their two-year fellowship program, Chris, Brandon and Danielle will participate in the CSR Summer Research Institute, complete a 10-week maritime security related summer internship at a CSR partner university, and will be responsible for completing a Master’s thesis.  Following completion of their degrees each will apply their skills and knowledge to careers within the maritime homeland security domain.