Intelligence studies school in Ireland named after first DHS secretary, Tom Ridge

Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge

Mercyhurst University announced on April 11 that its pioneering intelligence studies program will take the name of Tom Ridge, the nation’s first U.S. secretary of homeland security, the forty-third governor of Pennsylvania and a native of Erie, PA.

“Intelligence studies,” which educates students for careers in national security, law enforcement and business, is the university’s top major and a leader in distance and online learning initiatives, drawing students from across the nation and abroad. From its European headquarters at Mercyhurst Ireland in Dungarvan to its role in educating partner nations of the U. S. Department of State in intelligence analysis, its reach is global.

In recognition of its growth and as a vehicle by which it can best structure bold new objectives, the department recently reconfigured to become the university’s seventh school, incorporating not only intelligence studies, but mathematics, computer systems and communication. The new school will be known as “The Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Information Science.”

“We are deeply honored and grateful to Gov. Ridge for lending his name to an innovative program that has helped catapult Mercyhurst University onto the world stage, and we look forward to graduating individuals who aspire to combine keen analytic skills with a commitment to genuine human flourishing in the manner of Gov. Ridge,” said Mercyhurst’s president, Tom Gamble.

The opportunity to name the school after such a prominent figure in national security as Gov. Ridge, whose archives — and those of his wife, Michele — are now housed at the university, seemed only fitting.

“From his days as governor of Pennsylvania and as a U.S. cabinet member representing homeland security, Tom Ridge has demonstrated a global mindset, not to mention he’s a native son,” said James Breckenridge, Ph.D., dean and architect of the new school.

“Gov. Ridge has always been a big supporter of ours and we admire his interest, commitment and practice in and around the intelligence studies discipline,” Breckenridge said. “I might add that as keynote speaker, he was instrumental in the success of our first Global Intelligence Forum in Ireland.”

Today, Ridge is CEO of Ridge Global, an international provider of security and risk management services worldwide and, as such, an ideal face of a new school that aims to develop intelligence and information management leaders for the 21st century work environment, says a press release issued by the school.

Ridge is also partner of Ridge-Schmidt Cyber, an international consultancy helping leaders in business and government solve complex cyber security challenges.

“Graduates of Mercyhurst’s intelligence studies program are well known and highly regarded inside the walls of our nation’s intelligence and defense agencies in Washington,” said Gov. Ridge. “I am honored that Mercyhurst University, an institution with which I have enjoyed a long and proud affiliation, would choose to attach my name to this new school. The young men and women who will leave with degrees will play a critical role in defending our nation’s safety and securing our freedom.”

Breckenridge said the new school will stress critical thinking, collaborative decision-making, the application of technology to assist in information management and knowledge transfer (big data). Multi-media and social media as communication platforms will also be emphasized, while courses to address the demand for homeland security and cyber security professionals will be integrated. Further, he said, the school will serve as a center of excellence for distance and online learning, and take the lead in exploring, designing and developing new ways to deliver professional education.

“In marrying intelligence studies, mathematics, computer systems and communication, along with distance learning and online education, Mercyhurst is well positioned to exploit the new higher education environment,” Breckenridge said. “Currently, no higher education institution in the United States has developed an equivalent initiative.”