A Powerful Combination: Westminster Revamps Security Studies Major and Adds Cybersecurity Minor

Perform a quick Google search for “Security Studies,” and you’ll immediately find Westminster College toward the top of the list — and that’s more than a metaphor for the College’s newly revamped major.

What began in 2012 as a minor became a well-respected major in 2015. The 2020-2021 Academic Year marks the beginning of an updated Security Studies program that should appeal to students who are interested in careers at the highest levels of national security. A new Cybersecurity minor adds weight to the substantial program.

Tobias Gibson, the Dr. John Langton Professor of Legal Studies and Political Science, and the Security Studies Program Chair, weighs in on the changes to the Security Studies program and discusses the new Cybersecurity minor:

Can you describe how Westminster revamped the Security Studies major for 2020-2021 and beyond?

Primarily, the required scope was broadened. There are two important benefits to this. First, it allows students to meet many of the College’s learning goals, such as research and communication skills, by taking classes within the major. Second, it allows for a broad look at what security means at the national and global levels. This includes traditional topics like “American foreign policy” but also allows students to explore differences in homeland, national, and global security as well as explore political, legal, historical, and philosophical bases and implications of security.

What would you tell a prospective student who is toying with the idea of selecting a more specialized major, like a computer science-based Cybersecurity program, at another university?

Westminster’s Security Studies major offers two key benefits:

One is at the college level. We draw an incredible array of speakers, many of whom are potential employers and representatives of other post-graduation options. It is not uncommon to meet current or retired generals, admirals, and intelligence officers as well as professors from leading programs in national security. Some of our recent speakers include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Senator Bernie Sanders; Jeh Johnson, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Gen. David Petraeus (retired); Judge James E. Baker, Director of the Institute for Security Policy and Law at Syracuse University; and Laura Donahue, Professor of Law at Georgetown University.

The second benefit is at the program level. Westminster College teaches both skills and context in its Security Studies program. A Security Studies major will have wrestled with political implications, historical lessons, and moral quandaries of security policies before they graduate and not merely accumulated a specific skill.

Moreover, this educational model means our students often earn internships at the highest levels, including the State Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other security agencies. So Westminster Security Studies students graduate with real-world experience and a high-quality education. They will have the skills necessary to compete in the job market and to secure the future of nations and peoples.

What do students learn in the Cybersecurity minor?

Students who minor in Cybersecurity will gain knowledge and applied skills in foundational, technical aspects of cybersecurity and high-demand information assurance. These students will all have the ability to perform security risk assessment for an organization and develop appropriate security policies at the organizational level as well as awareness of the ethical and legal issues related to cybersecurity.

Although technical in nature, the minor should augment majors in the STEM disciplines, which can be as diverse as Accounting, Security Studies, Political Science, and Education. I thank Dr. Linda Webster for her vision in designing the minor.

To learn more about the Security Studies major, please contact Gibson at Tobias.Gibson@wcmo.edu. For more information on Westminster’s Cybersecurity minor, please contact Linda.Webster@wcmo.edu.





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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.