Celebrating veteran and military learners during Military Appreciation Month

During Military Appreciation Month, Penn State World Campus celebrates the men and women of the armed forces who have pursued a Penn State education online to advance their careers.

Matt Goodyear’s interest in the field of anti-terrorism started while serving as an explosive ordnance disposal officer. The interest led him to study counterterrorism in an online graduate program  through Penn State World Campus, and now he works in security with the U.S. Department of State.

Goodyear, a veteran with 11 years of service, is a special agent with the department’s Diplomatic Security Service. He graduated in 2022 from the counterterrorism option of Penn State’s master’s degree in homeland security program.

Through his master’s degree studies, Goodyear learned about the threat of terrorism to the U.S. homeland and how to analyze, manage, and report threats. He said he believes his advanced knowledge is helping him be successful in his career.

“I thought this would be a great program to potentially accelerate my career opportunities in the future because I’ve always had my eye on joining the State Department or the intelligence community,” Goodyear said. “I think Penn State helped me differentiate myself.”

Going back to school for a career in counterterrorism

Goodyear was a program manager for advanced technology demonstrations and experiments with the U.S. Department of Defense when he decided to go back to school and use his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to earn a master’s degree. He wanted to work in anti-terrorism, as he had been exposed to the impact of terrorism when he worked in explosive ordnance disposal for the Army with deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries.

With his family and job as his top priorities, Goodyear needed an online degree program that gave him the flexibility to complete his course work when it was convenient for him.

Goodyear chose the counterterrorism option of Penn State’s homeland security graduate program, which is offered exclusively online by the political science department of Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts. He enrolled in 2020.

The curriculum of the counterterrorism option of the graduate program focuses on the motives, threats, recruitment strategies, and operational tactics of terrorist groups, both nationally and abroad. A core tenet of this program is to encourage students to utilize the tools, data, and methods available to proactively create counterterrorism policies and swiftly respond to potential or realized acts of terror.

Students must complete a final research project. For his final project, Goodyear explored the use of drones in the U.S. military. He based his research on whether the use of these unmanned aircraft contributes to the creation of more terroristic incidents instead of lessening the threat.

“Tactically, the use of air power and uncrewed aerial systems are significant tools in countering terrorist activity in nonpermissive environments,” Goodyear said. “However, at the strategic level, these technologies may create more acts of terrorism if they fail to avoid civilian casualties.”

Taking the next step in his career

While completing the degree, Goodyear began applying to work for the Department of State. One requirement was a writing test, and he said the intensive writing from his graduate program benefited him.

Goodyear began working as a special agent in April 2023. In the role, he provides security and protection for Secretary of State Antony Blinken and visiting foreign dignitaries. He also investigates visa and passport fraud, which are often committed in connection with transnational crimes such as terrorism, human and drug trafficking, and murder.

He said he continues to rely on the writing experience from his graduate studies to aid him in the job.

“The Department of State and the Department of Defense require concise writing. You really have to speak toward your audience,” Goodyear said. “Doing the full spectrum of research and analysis work and then providing that work and explaining in a clear and concise manner is very beneficial.”

Goodyear said he believes his military service and his education have positioned him well for his future.

“I think there are so many different opportunities for me right now that I can almost go anywhere,” he said.

A Penn State education in counterterrorism

Penn State World Campus offers a Penn State education online, and the counterterrorism option of the homeland security master’s degree program is part of the comprehensive selection of more than 200 degrees and certificates.

Learn more about the counterterrorism program option offered online at Penn State.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.