The new Global Security Master’s program takes a unique holistic approach to prepare students for tomorrow’s threats > News > USC Dornsife


USC Dornsife’s MA program in Global Security Studies combines coursework in international relations, space science, and environmental studies, and draws on resources from the USC Shoah Foundation.

USC Dornsife’s new Master of Arts program in Global Security Studies teaches students to understand our dynamic world through expertise in political science, international relations, economics, spatial sciences and environmental studies. (Image source: iStock.)


  • Through unique holistic coursework and a summer internship, USC Dornsife’s new master’s degree in global security prepares students for a career or career advancement in the fields of national defense, human rights, disaster relief and related fields.
  • The program’s faculty includes highly respected academics and experienced professionals from government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
  • The application deadline for the two-year term from autumn 2022 is July 15.

Canada’s decision to spend record amounts on its naval fleet after years of lackluster budget allocations may seem odd at first, but the mystery is quickly dispelled by a closer look at climate data showing the rapid retreat of ice along the country’s coast, says John Wilson, Professor of Sociology, Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Preventive Medicine and spatial sciences at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“There are a whole range of opportunities, challenges and threats in the Arctic from a warming climate, and this will impact many areas,” says Wilson.

Without ice, Canada’s coast is more accessible to ships, be they enemy military vessels or everyday shipping and merchant vessels. Seen in this broader context, it is easier to understand the country’s defense spending and make some predictions about its future political and economic policies.

Understand our changing world through the lens of experts in political science, International RelationsEconomics, space science and environmental studies will be the focus of the new USC Dornsife Master of Arts in Global Security Studies program. The two-year, full-time program, beginning in Fall 2022, offers students a choice of three concentrations: Intelligence and Security, Global Security and Humanitarian Intervention, or Environmental Security.

Students who wish to pursue or advance a career in government or non-governmental organizations such as human rights organizations, or in private companies, including those focused on national security, will find the program particularly useful, says Steven Lamy, USC Dornsife Professor Emeritus of International Relations and Space Studies .

Lamy highlights the internship opportunities and the spatial science component of the program as two elements that set it apart from other master’s programs like this one.

“It’s not just government agencies, but many non-governmental and private actors who are looking for people with the spatial science skills to use mapping data to assess, for example, wartime attacks and the impact on the local population,” Lamy explains.

“To provide meaningful real-world experiences for students, we are also planning internship opportunities here in the US, like at the State Department, and abroad, in places like Latin America and Europe.”

The program’s faculty members are renowned scholars in the fields of international relations, defense, marine ecology, global human rights, spatial analysis, disaster management, crowd violence, and national intelligence.

human security

According to Lamy, the program will cover several areas of global security: traditional security, which is typically military defenses and other safeguards for nation states; environmental security, which relates to the impact of climate change, man-made and natural disasters and similar factors on populations; and human security, a more recent concept that emphasizes human rights and the sovereignty of the individual rather than the nation state.

Countries often focus on economic or political autonomy for the nation, but people’s experiences fall through the cracks, Lamy says. To help students understand the real-world impact of war and other disasters on populations, the program draws on the extensive resources of the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education.

Amy Carnes, acting chief of staff at the USC Shoah Foundation, explains that the institute will teach students how to analyze the testimonies of war and genocide survivors and use those narratives to underscore the human impact of mass violence and the humanity in people to emphasize safety.

“One of the big problems in rebuilding society after genocide is how to hold people accountable, how to use existing legal systems or invent new ones to try to bring a sense of justice to what happened,” says Carnes. She adds that the institute’s partnerships with UNESCO and organizations working with survivors of events such as the Holocaust and genocide in Rwanda provide students with materials from a wide variety of contexts.

“Because we have connections with so many partners around the world that are working on human security and the aftermath of mass violence, we have a lot of resources and bring a lot in terms of partners and hands-on, hands-on experience,” says Carnes .

environmental elements

The program features environmental safety as another key component, and Wilson says students will learn how to use geographic information systems (GIS) and other data to study in real time how populations are responding to wars, earthquakes, pollution and more. Using these tools to study the long-term impact of international events will also be crucial for predicting disasters and developing solutions, he adds.

“Ukraine is one of the largest food exporters in the world, and Russia apparently intends to close all shipping lanes to Ukraine,” Wilson said. Much of the world, including many suffering the effects of drought and other factors related to climate change, depend on Ukrainian agricultural exports for food. “Without Ukraine’s harvests, we could face a serious humanitarian crisis.”

The program’s emphasis on gathering scientific data, as well as testimonies from survivors and eyewitnesses, in addition to a broader view of current political and historical events, will prepare students well for their fields, whether in government or humanitarian aid, says Wilson. Seeing the connections between climate change and Canada’s defense policy, for example, or how the war in Ukraine will affect people in other countries and on other continents, is important for people who want to make meaningful changes, he adds.

“I think to make a difference, we need creative thinkers who can take on big problems, often spanning multiple countries, and then use sophisticated data analysis and modeling to bring the parties together to implement solutions to those problems,” he says.


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