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

Researcher spotlight: Hamilton Bean


Researcher spotlight: Hamilton Bean

May 10, 2012Kelly Kline

As previously discussed in last month's Researcher Spotlight, START is not only made up of those who walk the halls of the consortium headquarters; instead, there are hundreds of individuals with a variety of backgrounds located around the world who are a part of START and are committed to the scientific study of the causes and human consequences of terrorism. Hamilton Bean is a prime example.

Bean, located more than 1,600 miles away from START's headquarters, is busy teaching courses in organizational communication and public relations at the University of Colorado Denver, as well as conducting research at the intersection of security, organization and communication within terrorism studies. This Santa Cruz, California native grew up near the beach and wanted to become a marine biologist, but with a little inspiration from his college mentor, Bean found a new interest in terrorism research. Take a look at how his story unfolds:

Where did you earn your undergraduate degree and what did you study?

I attended the University of New Mexico and earned a Bachelor of Arts in history. While there, I wrote a senior honors thesis about a family member who had been the U.S. Navy's Chief Public Information Officer during World War II.

Did you have any further formal schooling after you attended the University of New Mexico?

Yes, I attended American University located in Washington, D.C. where I earned my Master of Arts in international communication and a Master of Business Administration in global information technology.

I also earned my doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder in organizational communication. My focus was related to my professional experience working as a private sector contractor in the defense and intelligence sector in Washington, DC, for five years following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

What first interested you in terrorism and terrorism studies and how did you become involved with START?

I was invited by my mentor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Dr. Lisa Keranen, to participate in what was then called "Working Group 3" - societal responses to terrorism - as a pre-doctoral fellow with START. At that time, we studied the intersection of media coverage and terrorism. I also wanted to better understand how emergency management officials made sense of and responded to new terrorism concerns and organizational requirements in a post-9/11 world. I thought it would be interesting to investigate the implications of terrorism communication and associated societal and organizational responses.

How long have you worked with START?

I have worked with START for a total of six years. For my first two years I was a pre-doctoral fellow and then for another year I was a research assistant. For the past three years I have been a lead investigator for projects that I collaborated on.

What are some of the types of projects that you have conducted research for?

Aside from what was previously discussed and my continued engagement with the federal government, I have worked with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on projects studying how actual public warning policies and practices in the cities and counties within and around New York City, Washington, DC and Los Angeles aligned with or diverged from social-scientific best practice in public warning communication. There was, of course, a lot of variability in terms of officials' knowledge, capabilities and practices?with important implications for region-wide coordination and public communication.

What is a typical day like for you as a START Researcher?

I have yet to have a "typical" day. I spend most of my time in my office conducting research, telephone interviews and writing. Occasionally, I will also travel to Washington, DC to brief officials about the findings of my various research projects. It's pretty unglamorous, but I love ideas and understanding the complex relationships among communication-oriented phenomena?such as conversations, official texts, state policies, and societal discourses? and how people make meaning from these.

Have you earned any special awards or recognition for any of your work (academic or professional)?

I have earned awards for scholarship from both the National Communication Association (NCA) and Western States Communication Association (WSCA). In 2008, the NCA recognized me as having a "Top 3 Paper" within the Organizational Communication Division for a project that critically examined U.S. Intelligence culture. In that same year, the WSCA awarded me and Dr. Ker?nen the "Top Paper" award for the organizational communication interest group for our essay Exploring the Relationship Between Homeland Security Information Sharing and Local Emergency Preparedness.

What do you hope for the future of START and its research/work?

I hope that START will continue to explore and develop cutting-edge knowledge in support of its mission to understand the human causes and consequences of terrorism. I think that one of the best things about START, from a non-research perspective, is the interpersonal and professional connections that are made. Many of my START colleagues have become my friends, and as a result, there have been unique opportunities for me to continue my collaborations with START; I hope START will continue to help young researchers cultivate those connections.

The Researcher Spotlight is a monthly Q&A series designed to profile START researchers and staff for their accomplishments and personal journey to the field of terrorism studies. To nominate consortium researchers or staff members for consideration, email infostart@start.umd.edu with Researcher Spotlight Suggestion in the subject line.