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From Staten Island to Paris: SJU Students Explore Global Terrorism

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fifteen students from St. John’s Staten Island campus spent early January 2016 in Paris, France, where they learned about international efforts to combat terrorism with a University professor who has extensive law enforcement experience.

The students spent a week in Paris, January 3–11, as part of the selective 2016 Vice Provost’s International Fellowship Program. Living at the University’s academic center in the picturesque St–Germain district, they attended classes, toured historic sites, and met international experts on terrorism.

“Our students were able to take part in a truly wonderful learning opportunity,” said James O’Keefe, Ph.D., Professor of Criminal Justice and Vice Provost of the Staten Island campus. O’Keefe accompanied the students to Paris and served as their principal instructor. Guest lecturers included a special agent from the US Department of State; a New York City police detective assigned to counter-terrorism duties in Paris; and two scholars from French universities.

More than 40 students applied for seats in the competitive opportunity. Twenty-one were accepted, and 15 ultimately enrolled. O’Keefe, a former Deputy Commissioner in the New York City Police Department, created the program by adding the study abroad component to an existing homeland security course, entitled Global Threats to Security. The course is offered through the University’s College of Professional Studies.

Now back on the Staten Island campus, O’Keefe continues to meet with the students every Wednesday throughout the semester. He is pleased by the variety of majors they represent. “As we see in the presidential debates and the media, this issue is relevant to every academic area,” he said. “It’s something that we all need to better understand.”

In Paris, students combined academics with visits to the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Musée de Collections Historiques de la Préfecture de Police, a museum containing memorabilia, photographs, and items from French law enforcement history. “Experiencing the city of Paris was one of the most amazing things I’ve done,” said Shannon Bergin ’17Ed, a student in The School of Education. “And looking into terrorism in other countries is an eye-opening experience.”

“Between trying new foods, making new friends, seeing historical monuments, and learning about global security, our trip to Paris was a once in a lifetime opportunity I’ll never forget,” noted Kevin Heaney ’16CPS, a homeland security major. “It was an incredible mixture of exploring the old world—and the role of security in the new world we all face.”