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New Nichols College Counterterrorism Master’s Degree Focuses on Strategies to Combat Terrorism, Violent Extremism

DUDLEY, Mass.—Nichols College has launched the first graduate program in the United States whose focus is exclusively on violent extremism. The Nichols Master of Science in Counterterrorism (MSC) is a leadership-focused degree for those pursuing careers in the fields of intelligence, public policy, and security. Through an innovative, in-class and online experience students will learn from counterterrorism experts the factors contributing to the radicalization process of violent extremism, and explore strategies to counter both terrorism and violent extremism.

“Given that protecting the safety and security of our country has become more challenging than ever, Nichols College’s new Master of Science in Counterterrorism will thoroughly prepare students for a dynamic, rewarding career in the field of homeland security,” said Kerry Calnan, executive director of Nichols College Graduate & Professional Studies. “The MSC degree provides students with the proper framework to distinguish between terrorism and violent extremism. Our accomplished faculty are experts in criminal justice, homeland security, and the military; students will learn from them methods to combat worldwide threats and trends of terrorism.”

Nichols College faculty saw a need to create this program for students once the Department of Homeland Security stressed the importance of countering violent extremism as a top priority for the United States.  The federal agency employs more than 240,000 people in jobs ranging from aviation and border security to emergency response, and from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector.

Counterterrorism expert and Nichols College Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Allison McDowell-Smith, Ph.D., is one of the program’s faculty members. She is a senior research fellow for the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and has trained Belgian police on de-radicalization processes. She serves as a violent extremism expert editor to Defence and Intelligence of Norway, a digital fellow for the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, and president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Justice Education.

“Violent extremist threats can develop from groups and individuals, both domestically and internationally,” said Professor McDowell-Smith. “It is necessary to understand the radicalization process, ideologies, security measures, and the role of social media in the formation and implementation of violent extremism within our current society. By understanding violent extremism, counter violent extremism strategies can be examined and implemented to effectively combat terrorism in our society as well as threats of terrorism-related events.”

The 30-credit MSC curriculum includes courses on homegrown violent extremism, international violent extremism, cybersecurity, border security, and the media’s impact on violent extremism. And with Nichols HyFlex conferencing technology, students choose each week whether to learn in the classroom or online, in real time. They can participate in class no matter where they are.

Students will become well-versed in the general ecosystem of violent extremism—from theoretical explorations of violent extremism to legal and policy contexts to organizational dynamics and contemporary practices that advance positive change to confront violent extremism.

“Violent extremism presents a unique threat for counterterrorism experts as it involves the cooperation of various agencies including military, law enforcement, intelligence, and social media advocates,” said Professor McDowell-Smith, Ph.D.

Watch Professor McDowell-Smith discuss counterterrorism and violent extremism with Worcester Business Journal Editor Brad Kane:



FOX25 Boston

Inside Higher Ed, June 20, 2017: "Colleges Start New Academic Programs"

Telegram & Gazette, June 18, 2017: "Nichols Rolls Out New Graduate Program Focused on Counterterrorism, Violent Extremism Studies"

Worcester Business Journal, August 7, 2017: "Shop Talk: Nichols Professor Draws on ISIS Experience to Teach Counterterrorism"

Worcester Business Journal, June 14, 2017: "Nichols College Launches Counterterrorism Grad Degree"

Worcester Magazine, August 3, 2017: "Nichols' Grad Program Highlights Counter-terrorism"

Worcester News Tonight, TVCharter 3


Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., is a college of choice for business and leadership education as a result of its distinctive career-focused and leadership-based approaches to learning, both in and out of the classroom. Founded in 1815, Nichols transforms today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders through a dynamic business and professional education. Nichols serves students interested primarily in a comprehensive business education.


Lorraine U. Martinelle
Director of Public Relations and Social Media
Nichols College | Learn. Lead. Succeed.
Dudley, Mass.
Email: | Twitter: @NicholsNewsroom