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Van Loan to Host Women Leaders in Homeland Security Event

Women in Homeland Security
Women leaders in homeland security will be at Endicott College for an informative panel discussion.

Women leaders in homeland security will be at the Van Loan School at Endicott College on Thursday, October 25, 2018, to share their empowering stories of breaking the glass ceiling in a historically male-dominated field.

The event, which is scheduled from 6:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m. in the Judge Science Center Auditorium, will feature Assistant Director of Homeland Security Studies and retired U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Engrid Backstrom and an esteemed group of panelists.

"I have been extremely fortunate to have had strong female leaders and mentors throughout my career in Homeland Security,” Backstrom said. “This is important for any women looking to get into this field, to see other women as leaders, mentors and paving the way, so then they can turn around and do the same for future females in the field."  

Also at the event will be the following panel members:

  • Maureen Hunter, Cybersecurity Engineer, Raytheon, Global Business Services
  • Whitney McKay, Director of Operations and Response Division for Maine Emergency Management Agency and former U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant
  • Dr. Melissa Surette, Senior Planner, Risk Analysis Branch, FEMA Region 1
  • Jordan Regan, Group Supervisor, Homeland Security Investigations, DHS
  • Nancy McGillivray, Retired Senior Executive Service (SES) manager for U.S. Marshal Service and current Homeland Security Studies Program Advisory Board member

The panel members will answer questions from Backstrom during the first hour, followed by a networking open forum.


Prior to the event, two women who graduated from Van Loan’s homeland security program shared their educational and professional experiences in the industry. Read more about their stories below.

Ashley HannawayAshley Hannaway M’16
Ashley Hannaway is an investigative specialist for the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Boston Field Office. Her diverse background includes hospitality and education, and she holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a Master’s of Education in Elementary Education from Salem State University.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in homeland security?
"Before going back to school, I wanted to be positive in choosing a fulfilling career; one that would be relevant and inspiring. My needs were straightforward: I was seeking a practical, forward-thinking program that would position me in a progressive job market. Homeland security is just that. The voluminous areas of study that fall under this category range from cybersecurity, to emergency management, critical infrastructure protection, and security technologies. The possibilities were limitless when choosing a career path to follow given the solid foundation we received through the programs curriculum. I recognized the demand for homeland security subject matter experts, especially in our fluid environment today."

What were some of the program’s strengths?
"The strengths of the program lie within its organic structure and relevant curriculum. The base of studies positioned us as students to be appealing and current in various markets under the homeland security umbrella. In other words, this program through its topical and expansive coursework gave me a well-rounded base knowledge from which to attract potential employers.

"Additionally, the program has several exclusive differentiating attributes including the personality of the cohort itself and the range of talent in the instructors and advisors. There was a significant impact on the outcome of our discussions and forums and even our group projects due to the range of experience and ages of the students in the program as well as the people coming in and orchestrating the modules."

How has the program helped you?
"The combination of the instructors, contacts and networking opportunities that came from the program were a force multiplier when pursuing a career in homeland. I owe my current position to the tutelage from not only the leadership in the program but also the exposure I had to professionals within the security environment that were invested in my success."

Vincenza DiMaio ‘16 M’18
Vincenza DiMaio holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Endicott College and a master’s degree in homeland security from the Van Loan School. The Gloucester, Mass., native currently works for FEMA as a reservist.

How was your Van Loan experience like? 
"I wasn't just a number and that's why I excelled in the program. If I ever struggled I knew I could always go to the staff for help."

What were some of the program's strengths?
"The strength of the program is the professors. We were taught by people who have experience in the field. We heard real stories and experiences that put a lot of the topics we were learning to life."

What is it like breaking into a field that might be viewed as male-dominated? 
"I've been comfortable with this field for a long time. I started working security at Salem Hospital in 2016 and all my co-workers were men. We worked as a team and I learned what it took to earn my place in this field. I proved I had what it took."

What opportunities are there in this field for women?
"Women have so many opportunities in this field, and I encourage women to overcome this fear of not being accepted by men and prove to them we are just as valuable."

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph C Boggio