Security Studies

Kansas State University

221 Eisenhower Hall

Manhattan, KS 66506




Fort Leavenworth

Education Center



Dr. Cheryl Polson

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this a degree program for military officers?

Many of our students are serving military officers, but it is certainly not exclusively for military personnel. The KSU M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs in Security Studies were initiated partly with Defense Department funds appropriated for the goal of broadening the spectrum of U.S. Army officer education. Many of the features of the program were designed to accommodate students and faculty at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. However, the program is open to all who are academically qualified, and current students include many without current or prior military service. Our course schedule is designed to fit with the schedule of students doing ILE at Fort Leavenworth: no classes begin before 3:30 PM. Students on active duty at Ft. Riley need to carefully consider their day-to-day responsibilities before joining the program. In particular, it is extremely difficult to complete the program while taking only night classes. Students need the flexibility to take some 3:30 PM courses.

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When are courses offered?

Our courses generally meet one day a week for just under three hours. We have standardized their start times as 3:30 PM (Monday through Friday) and 7:00 PM (Monday through Thursday). To complete the program, you will almost certainly need to take some afternoon courses; evening courses alone will not suffice. A limited number of courses meet two days a week for three hours each meeting, but for only half the semester.

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Are there summer courses?

In addition to regular fall and spring semesters, the program offers courses (though with a more limited selection) in June and July. Because the summer session is shorter, the courses meet more frequently and the pace is faster than in regular courses.

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Is it possible to earn a Security Studies degree entirely through distance learning?

Yes . . . but only for someone with access to the educational facilities at Fort Leavenworth. There is no residency requirement for either degree offered in the KSU Security Studies program. That is, a degree can be earned without ever moving to Manhattan, Kansas, the home of Kansas State University, as long as you are close to Fort Leavenworth. Of course, you can be a Manhattan resident as well, and roughly half our students are. One of the core courses for the M.A. degree (POLSC or HIST 812 "Foundations of Security Studies") is a web-based course, which can accordingly be taken by anyone anywhere in the world with access to the Internet. Military personnel deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, could conceivably take the course (provided their other duties allow the time for it) before arriving for assignment to the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College or other offices or agencies at Leavenworth. All other core courses and most available electives are offered through jointly and simultaneously in Manhattan and Leavenworth through videoconferencing. One professor teaches to students in both locations, with the classrooms linked by a VTC hook-up. But there is a caveat for Security Studies via distance learning. All of the above refers to coursework only. A graduate degree program is more than simply the sum of the required credit hours, however, and some of the other elements of a successful degree program must or should take place on campus. For example, preliminary exams as well as thesis and dissertation defenses must be conducted on campus. But other elements, more difficult to define, often comprise part of a successful graduate degree program, such as interaction with faculty outside of classes, study time in a research university library, informal exchanges with other students, and opportunities to interact with visiting scholars, policymakers, and other speakers. No one can specify just which of these kinds of elements may or may not be critical to the training and development of the scholarly intellect, but often these prove as important as anything that is directly connected to coursework. So, while it is certainly not impossible for someone to complete a graduate degree program while located at Leavenworth, one should understand from the outset that there are some valuable resources which cannot be packaged and delivered solely via distance learning.

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In cases where electives will be part of the program of study, what courses can I take and how will I know which ones to choose?

In the context of Security Studies graduate degree programs at Kansas State University, the term "elective" refers to courses that are not part of the required core curriculum. The elective courses are selected under the guidance of the student's supervisory committee. The committee will recommend—and may require—that specific courses be taken as electives. Such decisions are based on the student's expressed areas of interest within the larger field of security studies and may vary widely from one student to the next. Elective courses, then, should be understood as "directed electives" rather than "free electives."

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Are GRE scores required for the application?

Yes, for some people, and no, for others. Graduate Record of Examination (GRE) test scores are recommended but not required for applicants to the M.A. program who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher at the institution at which they earned their bachelor's degree. Official reports of Graduate Record of Examination (GRE) test scores are required for applicants with a GPA below 3.0 at the institution at which they earned their bachelor's degree. GRE scores are required for all applicants to the Ph.D. program. In cases where GRE scores are required, they may not be more than five years old.

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Where should I have GRE scores sent? Does the KSU Security Studies program have a code number for these tests?

There is no code available for Security Studies. Please use the general Kansas State University code (6334) and indicate to us that your scores have been sent to K-State.

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What grades and GRE scores do I need to get admitted?

There are no set GPAs or GREs that will guarantee acceptance into the program. Nor are there any numbers in either category that will automatically eliminate an applicant from consideration. The admissions review committee looks carefully at all of the materials submitted by the applicant. GRE scores and grades, whether good or bad, may be counterbalanced in the committee's minds by other elements in the applicant's dossier, such as the letters of recommendation, writing samples, or a particularly thoughtful and well-crafted Statement of Objectives. The committee's goal is to form a comprehensive, well-rounded picture of the applicant's strengths and weaknesses as part of the overall assessment of the applicant's likelihood of success in the program. It is for this very reason that a range of materials is requested as part of the application packet. Consequently, there are no quantitative absolutes that will guarantee admission or rejection. There are cases where persons have been admitted who had lower GRE scores or GPAs than some who have been denied admission. That said, the admission process is already competitive, getting more so as time passes and the number of applicants grows. The admissions committee expects to see a strong academic record, giving reasonable assurance of the ability to succeed in the program, in order to admit students. Standards at the Ph.D level are significantly higher than at the MA level.

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What should I send as a writing sample when I apply?

The ideal writing sample is one that demonstrates the applicant's aptitude for critical thinking, social sciences or humanities methodologies, familiarity with the subject matter, and clarity of communication. A professional publication in the field of security studies would naturally be best, but it is understood that it is the rare applicant who can provide this. Next best would be academic or professional papers or publications that demonstrate one or more of the critical skills outlined above. Multiple samples are only helpful if each one exemplifies the applicant's abilities in different areas. For instance, an applicant might send a university term paper that shows acquaintance with, say, an area of political science relevant to security studies along with an article published in a professional journal that demonstrates analytical thinking and expertise at expository writing.

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How many spots for new admissions are there in the program in a given year?

This is unpredictable, though in any given year total admissions average around 30-35 at the MA level, and a much smaller number of Ph.D admits. Applicants are admitted based on their chances for success in the program rather than to conform to a numerical quota. More applicants will be admitted in some years than in others. Ultimately, the program's capacity depends on the limits of faculty time for teaching, advising, and mentoring. That is, however, often difficult to quantify in the aggregate for the entire Security Studies faculty, and can vary somewhat from one year to another, depending on the hiring or retirement of faculty members, sabbaticals and other temporary absences, and the level of commitments individual faculty members may have to other programs and duties.

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What kind of bachelor's degree is best suited for graduate work in Security Studies?

The field of Security Studies is an interdisciplinary one, with some interaction between the social sciences and the humanities in both methodology and content. The KSU Security Studies program is rooted in two departments: political science and history. The ideal applicant thus would have some background in both of those fields, particularly in relevant areas of each of those disciplines (such as international relations within the larger field of political science and military history and regional studies within the larger field of history). However, it is not expected that successful applicants will necessarily have degrees or extensive academic coursework in both of those areas. Nevertheless, most successful applicants will have some experience in one or the other of the fields of political science and history. Undergraduate work in one field or the other will be a plus for any applicant, and naturally graduate work in either area will carry additional weight in the admissions committee's deliberations.

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Is it possible to complete the M.A. degree in one calendar year?

Yes, particularly for ILE students and others who have substantial amounts of transfer credit. Whether or not a student completes the program in a year depends on several factors, such as the number of transfer credit hours accepted at admission and whether the student has full-time or part-time student status. Students at the Command and General Staff College increase the likelihood of finishing their degree with a year of study by taking POLSC or HIST 812 "Foundations of Security Studies," one of the master's core courses, before they arrive at Leavenworth. It would be very difficult (but not impossible) for a student without transfer credit to complete the MA in twelve months.

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Is there a foreign language requirement for the Ph.D. degree?

The answer to that depends on the particular area of concentration that a doctoral student pursues within the larger field of Security Studies. The student's supervisory committee sets any and all foreign language requirements. Certainly a doctoral program with an emphasis on the security issues of a specific strategic region will require some language competencies. Generally speaking, the supervisory committee sets standards of language proficiency that must be met rather than directing the specific path by which a student attains those standards. It is possible that one student's supervisory committee will require moderate reading or speaking abilities while another's committee will require a much higher level of proficiency if, for example, extensive research in a foreign language is necessary for the completion of the dissertation.

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