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

In training the next generation of scholars and practitioners, START offers its students a chance to publish their work on this blog.

FIRE and START: A Unique Perspective

FIRE and START: A Unique Perspective

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Justin Mckillop, FIRE Student

Entering my second semester at the University of Maryland I enrolled in a class titled FIRE154: Risk Communication and Resilience. The only thing I knew about the class was that it was a part of the First Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) program at the university and I would get to spend eight hours a week in START’s research lab. What I did not know is that this class would help me find my passion and push me toward a career path I never knew existed in counterterrorism and homeland security.

Before I began my research at START, I doubted that I would be able to handle the weekly hour and work requirements necessary to succeed in the course, but the first day of class I met START Research Educator and FIRE154 instructor Mike Egnoto. His excitement about the FIRE program inspired me to stay the course. Throughout the experience, he was instrumental in helping me develop passion for my research with START.

On the Risk Communication and Resilience (RCR) team I learned to code articles based on various criteria, analyze research and to write my own formal research reports. I was one of 25 students selected for this innovative, new program within the RCR stream. This opportunity granted me the privilege of collaborating with some of the hardest-working people in the business. I was personally affected by the tangible enjoyment START employees get from their work. The passion that they have and the measurable impact they are making makes me want to pursue a similar career and make my own impact on the world.  

My involvement with both the FIRE program and START has fueled my future career and internship interests. FIRE made such a difference in my academic career that I hope to return to the program next spring as a mentor, assisting fellow students in reaching their academic goals. I am also interested in enrolling in START’s Global Terrorism Minor program.

My brief time working with the FIRE program at START have fueled my interest in counterterrorism and have opened my eyes to opportunities I never dreamed I would experience.