TRSS is a uniquely interdisciplinary program that combines computation and big data, decision analysis, human intelligence, public policy, risk assessment and terrorism studies.

Convocation, Indigenous Studies, Students

First “virtual” cohort of masters students from SFU’s Terrorism, Risk and Security Studies Program graduates, virtually

June 10, 2020

The first cohort of students graduating from Simon Fraser University’s master’s program in Terrorism, Risk and Security Studies (TRSS) are no strangers to online learning in a dynamic “virtual” classroom setting.

Designed to be delivered completely online, the program is made for people who are currently employed in policing, intelligence, cybersecurity, border security or the military. It was also designed to be completed on a part-time basis, so students don’t need to take a leave of absence from their jobs. TRSS is a uniquely interdisciplinary program that combines computation and big data, decision analysis, human intelligence, public policy, risk assessment and terrorism studies.

One graduate of the program, Steven McDonald, is a 65-year old retired Canadian Forces Military Police Officer and public servant who still works in the public safety and security domain as a security and emergency management advisor. He describes the program as “world class” and says the topics and assignments challenged even experienced professionals such as himself.

“The TRSS cohort had the opportunity to study relevant, contemporary topics with a global focus, while ensuring national context,” says McDonald. “The courses examined an environment that is being shaped by evolving public safety challenges associated with terrorism risk and security, by identifying and examining the underlying factors contributing to radicalization and terrorism, and the government policy responses to them.”

McDonald wrote his final research project on street gangs and pathways to radicalization.

“I contend that the pathway to gang recruitment is similar to the pathway to radicalisation,” he says. “The paper uses a systematic approach to identify literature related to gang recruitment, the social risk factors and motivations contributing to gang recruitment and the identification of social psychological theory considered relevant to the study of street gang recruitment.”

Another graduate of the TRSS program is current Victoria Police officer Del Manak. Manak joined the program because, he says, “I felt it was highly relevant for all law enforcement officers, given the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks taking place in all parts of the world.”

Manak’s research project explored what best practices the Victoria Police Department could implement to identify and respond to early warning signs of radicalization towards violence. Now that he’s graduating from the program, Manak says his goal is to “implement as many of the recommendations from my final project and ensure the Victoria Police Department is in a better position to prevent and respond to national security threats.”

Both graduates speak highly of their experiences in the “virtual” classroom. McDonald was particularly impressed with how well the online learning environment fostered his learning.

“The collective experience and wisdom that was present on our weekly Zoom sessions was an element that added significantly to the dynamic of the study sessions,” he says. “The ability to listen to that collective wisdom was further enhanced with the addition of world class guest lecturers.”

TRSS was originally offered as a Cohort Special Arrangement (CASR) program, but now it has received support from SFU to operate as a permanent program, pending final approval from the provincial government.

“This is an outstanding program,” McDonald says. “My hat is off to Professors Garth Davies and Stephen Hart, and all the other hard-working SFU folks behind the scenes whose collective efforts stood up the TRSS Program, got it going, and kept it there. I applaud SFU for staying the course.”

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, new applicants to the program will have to wait until June 2021 to apply to the next round of admissions for the January 2022 cohort.