The Department of Homeland Security recently awarded Gary LaFree and START the Spirit of Excellence Award for building partnerships across many universities, federal agencies and academic disciplines. Dan Gerstein, the Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology, presented the award during a director's meeting of the 12 DHS Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate Centers of Excellence (COE).
All Centers of Excellence work closely with academia, industry, DHS components and first-responders to develop customer-driven research solutions to 'on the ground' challenges as well as provide essential training to the next generation of homeland security experts.
Managed through the Office of University Programs, the Centers of Excellence organize leading experts and researchers to conduct multidisciplinary homeland security research and education. Each center is university-led or co-led in collaboration with partners from other institutions, agencies, national laboratories, think tanks and the private sector.
Over the last seven years under LaFree's leadership, START has built a broad and collaborative network serving more than 180 researchers based at more than 45 universities and 20 centers and think tanks throughout the world. Students from across the country intern with START. This fall, students from 14 universities worked with researchers to solve real-world problems and gain work experience.
"Gary has created an organizational culture that rewards curiosity over arrogance, collaboration over isolation, and industry over complacency," stated Bill Braniff, START's executive director.
"He is excited about the next partnership, the next year's data, and the next intern cohort. That enthusiasm is contagious, and it sets a healthy tone for an organization that is at its best when it functions as a central hub in a powerful network."