doctoral program in global security

Get started on your doctorate in Global Security at American Military University.

By In Homeland Security Staff

Having a doctoral degree can definitely benefit you; it clearly establishes your expertise in a particular field. It is a frequent choice for master’s degree students who want to advance their knowledge and obtain their doctorate.

In this video, American Military University’s Dr. Melissa Schnyder discusses the experience of transitioning into an applied doctorate program in global security from an instructor’s perspective. She highlights several critical elements to consider for those who are thinking of pursuing a doctoral degree. In addition, Melissa discusses how she prepares beginning doctoral students for a successful journey through the program.

Transcript of video

I’m Dr. Melissa Schnyder and I am a professor in the global security doctoral program and my position is a bit unique because I’m one of the first professors that students come into contact with when they start the program.

I receive a lot of questions from master’s students in terms of whether or not they’re ready to start a doctoral program. And so I want to cover some of what I think are the most important considerations to think about.

In the first month of the applied doctorate program, students can expect a lot of reading, a lot of critical analysis, and a lot of reflection. And I’ll take each of those three points in turn. So students have a lot of reading pretty much from the moment they enter the program. And I would say it’s anywhere from 300 to maybe 400 even pages per week.

And the reason that we assign a lot of reading right away is because students really need to get a depth and a breadth of what we’re covering in the program right away from the first class, and so students are going to be exposed to lots of different theories and lots of different strands of the global security literature.

From there, they’re going to be doing a lot of critical analysis and that really involves looking at the literature with a critical eye. And so that means you know deconstructing its strengths and weaknesses and focusing on where there are gaps in the literature to move research forward.

Lastly, they’ll be doing a lot of reflection and that’s where students get to bring in their own professional experience and their own backgrounds and think about the global security issues that they’re familiar with and that they’ve had to address in their professional lives and how some of these literatures and theories apply back to those global security problems students are brought together for an in-person residency. And that’s the first experience that they will have interacting with their professors and with each other. That’s a critical resource just for learning about the program and for learning about each other.

Secondly, students have access to the university’s library where they can access a wide range of tools for doing research as well as academic journals that they’ll need access to to get familiar with the field of global security. There’s also the Student Success Center and students can access that right away in their classrooms and through there they can access research methods tools that they’ll need along the way. For example, in vivo, in SPSS are available to students right away through the Student Success Center.

And lastly, there is of course the faculty and the cohort, and those are perhaps the two most critical resources I would say for a new doctoral student to get familiar with is to get to know the faculty that they’ll be working with, their different areas of expertise, and those the wide range of experiences that the cohort brings to the classroom.

So indeed, yes, there are a few things that I do to ease the transition for new doctoral students. I typically teach the first course that students take in the doctoral program and that’s global governance. And what I have focused on in that course somewhat I continue to focus on are two things and that’s really the fundamentals of research and also exposing students to a breadth of ideas right away.

And so for each of those points, students will come in and they’ll get familiar with the fundamentals of research and that is really all about how to analyze the literature and how to critically look at a body of literature and see how research questions emerge from gaps in that literature. And we spend a lot of time on that during the first eight weeks.

So you don’t want to come in and think that this is something that you can do all by yourself. I think it’s really critical to know that you’re going to have to lean on a support system at home, but also you’re going to have to lean on your professors and your cohort to a greater extent than perhaps you’d be used to in a master’s program and certainly an undergraduate program.

And so I think it’s really critical to come in having that support system in place. The second thing I would say is to understand that your priorities are going to shift and that time management skills are going to be really critical to success in the doctoral program. And that’s simply because there’s so much material to get through in any given course. And in any given week there’s a lot of reading, a lot of writing, a lot of analysis, and so understanding how priorities must shift where you have to take time away from in your life in order to get that time you need to get through the reading and the analysis is really important to understand from the beginning.

And lastly, I would say: Don’t forget to engage with your professors and with your cohort in a doctoral program you’re really becoming a subject matter expert in the field. Your bridging academia with the practitioner world, and that really necessitates having a good relationship with your professors and with your cohort as well. These are networks that you’re going to keep, even after the program’s over.

About the Speaker

Dr. Melissa Schnyder is an Associate Professor of Global Security in the Global Security doctoral program at American Public University System. Dr. Schnyder’s research is focused in the areas of European politics, comparative immigration and asylum policies, and the political participation of non-state actors in policymaking processes. She has held visiting faculty and researcher positions at the University of Kent Brussels School of International Studies, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels), and the German Marshall Fund of the United States Transatlantic Center in Brussels, Belgium. Dr. Schnyder was a Fulbright Fellow to the European Union and has participated in transatlantic symposia on the subject matter of immigration and asylum.

Her research has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Contemporary European Research, Journal of European Integration, Comparative European Politics, Social Movement Studies, Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements, and she has also written a book published by Roman and Littlefield International Press. Dr. Schnyder earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University in Bloomington and she also holds a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.