MURFREESBORO — Middle Tennessee State University has formed a partnership with a nonprofit that tests airport security applications as the school begins a new master's degree program in aviation security and safety.
A representative of the Alcoa-based nonprofit organization National Safe Skies Alliance signed an agreement last week with MTSU to work together to make the university the first in the state to offer a master of science degree in aviation safety and security, The Daily News Journal reported.
"National Safe Skies Alliance, through its independent and impartial testing of aviation-security systems and processes at airports, provides an important role in helping to strengthen and refine security measures in place throughout the nation," said Sidney McPhee, president of MTSU, before the signing. "MTSU's decision to leverage its considerable aerospace educational resources into a master's program in this discipline, and the willingness of Safe Skies Alliance to partner with us and strengthen the offerings to our students, are both mutually beneficial and in the public interest."
Scott Broyles, president and CEO of the National Safe Skies Alliance, told The DNJ the signed memorandum of understanding will provide the support his organization has in the aviation-security industry to the development of the aviation-security concentration at MTSU.
National Safe Skies was formed in 1997 to support testing of aviation-security technologies and processes. With funding through the FAA and coordination support from the Transportation Security Administration, Safe Skies conducts third-party, independent tests and evaluations of technologies that have the potential for security applications at airports.
Tests are conducted both operationally at airports around the country and pre-operationally at its facilities in Alcoa in East Tennessee.
"What (this agreement) does for our (new master's degree) program is that instead of them sitting in a classroom for the entire two years and getting lectures on issues of safety and security at United States airports, they can now do internships at National Safe Skies to actually get first-hand, on-the-job experience of what it is like to be testing some of the new security technology," said Wayne Dorman, chairman of the Aerospace Department. The masters of science in aviation safety and security management will be the second master of science program offered by the department, he added. Currently, the university offers a master's in aerospace administration program.
The aviation and security management master's degree program was applied for through the Tennessee Board of Regents last year and was approved in the spring. Courses in the major are expected to begin in the fall.
"We anticipate we may have a handful of students that may start the program in the fall," Dorman said. "We anticipate it's going to become a very popular master's degree program."
The university's relationship with National Safe Skies Alliance will also benefit the nonprofit.
"I think working with our students in aviation-security management will create a pipeline for them," he said. "They are a growing company and are going to need our students."