A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

START recognized for expanding access for underrepresented students


START recognized for expanding access for underrepresented students

Education team wins award for ethnic minority achievement

May 28, 2015Beth Schwartz

The University of Maryland’s President’s Commission on Ethic Minority Issues (PCEMI) and President Wallace Loh recently honored START with the 2015 Ethnic Minority Achievement Instructional Unit Award for its work promoting diversity within its educational programming.

The PCEMI was established in 1973 to address the concerns of ethnic minority groups on the UMCP campus. The PCEMI awards recognize faculty, staff, students, and individual units that have made outstanding contributions to the University’s equity efforts. The awards also recognizes those who have worked to improve the racial climate on the College Park Campus.

“At START, we build our curricular and co-curricular programs to prepare students for success in the workforce, and supporting and promoting students from underrepresented groups is a key component of that goal,” said START Education Director Dr. Katherine Izsak. “We send many of our students in the homeland, national, and international security workforces, and we want to help create a workforce that reflects the diversity of the nation.  We also want to send students into that workforce who are prepared to collaborate and communicate effectively across ethnic, racial, religious, cultural, linguistic, and other barriers.”

Over the past two years, START’s education team -- led by Izsak, Jacqueline DeVore and Marcella Morris -- has made a concerted effort to expand access to its Terrorism Studies programming for underrepresented students.  The team has engaged in targeted recruiting efforts and has won two grants, one from the University of Maryland, one from the Department of Homeland Security, that have allowed START to substantially increase access to Terrorism Studies programming for members of underrepresented ethnic and racial minority groups. 

When START launched the Global Terrorism Minor Program in 2007, the program’s gender ratio was only 32 percent female to 68 percent male, and the program was broadly characterized by a lack of ethnic and racial minority representation. 

Achieving -- and now maintaining -- gender parity in 2013, the program was bolstered through a Moving Maryland Forward grant from UMD’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The Expanding Access to Security Studies Education (or EASSE) program aimed to recruit students from underrepresented groups to the minor program and provide them additional support to succeed. Held over two academic years, the grant supported students from underrepresented populations as they participated in START's Global Terrorism Minor courses and concurrently engaged in biweekly seminars focused on enhancing academic success skills that can be employed in education and work related to national and international security. 

Also in 2013, Dr. Izsak and her team received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs to establish the Diversifying Security Studies (DiSS) Career Development Program.  DiSS awarded nearly $200,000 in scholarships and stipends to eight students from underrepresented ethnic and racial minority groups. Each student in the program received a full scholarship for one year, as well as stipend. During their time in the DiSS program, students participated in START research projects, enrolled in Terrorism Studies courses, and took part in a professional development series.

START has also partnered with 11 Minority-Serving Intuitions in pursuit of external funding opportunities to provide for more than 20 minority students to participate in residential research internships.

At the close of the 2014-2015 Academic Year, START’s Terrorism Studies Program had leveraged the EASSE and DiSS programs, as well as targeted recruiting efforts, to raise its racial and ethnic minority representation from approximately 20 percent to nearly 40 percent, thereby reaching similar levels of minority student representation as is characterized by the University as a whole. In addition, Terrorism Studies substantially diversified the pool of students to whom they have provided full scholarships: recipients of full of scholarships are 71 percent female and 52 percent non-White, with African American, Hispanic and Pacific Islander all represented.

“We are so honored to receive this award from the President’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Issues,” Izsak said. “It was not an easy task to diversify our initially homogenous cohorts, but with the support of the UMD Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs, we have effectively increased the accessibility of our educational programming and increased the diversity of perspectives represented within our student body and its alumni.  This award is a landmark in our history as an educational institution.”