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U counterterrorism course helps students learn practical skills that will prepare them for careers in intelligence, military and foreign policy agencies.

By Zachary Bloomer

It didn’t take long as a first year law student to learn that my dreams of going from Utah to an international superstar attorney were a long shot.  But before graduation, I decided to book a plane ticket to Brussels to visit the International Court of Justice over spring break to further explore the idea anyway.  As fate would have it, flights during spring break were overbooked. My attempt at crossing the pond was dashed, and I ended up spending my spring break sweating down in the Arizona heat. I returned to school depressed that my final college spring break was mediocre at best, until I turned on the news last Tuesday morning.

As terrorist attacks become more commonplace, we find ourselves continually desensitized from their effect, and, unless you live in close proximity to the attack, daily life quickly resumes to normal.  In fact, most of the changes that do take place following attacks relate to implementing additional security protections — but don’t focus on how to prevent future attacks. Students enrolled in a counterterrorism course at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, however, have spent this semester learning from an operational counterterrorism expert who is helping to train future government leaders on how to assess risks before they turn into actual attacks, as well as how to respond after attacks occur.

Professor Amos Guiora teaches a counterterrorism course where students, including myself, have gained hands-on experience that draws in part from 19 years Guiora spent working with the Israel Defense Forces.  The purpose of the class is to assist law students, as well as those enrolled in the MIAGE (Master of Science in International Affairs and Global Enterprise) program, to learn practical skills that will prepare them for careers that work with intelligence, military and foreign policy agencies.

The University of Utah is unique among U.S. universities in carrying out the exercise and offering the courses that accompany it. Two courses are associated with the counterterrorism simulation; the first, titled Global Perspectives on Counterterrorism gives students a chance to go through four mini simulations during the course. The second course, Simulation Design, is a year-long class taught in conjunction with Aaron Dewald, associate director of the College of Law’s Center for Legal Innovation, in which students who’ve previously participated in the simulation design the scenarios for the next year’s event.

Students work both individually and in small groups to gain experience in specific areas that are critical to understanding how to approach terrorism.  This is done by placing students in realistic scenarios in which they participate in both legal and advisory roles to facilitate learning objectives such as advocacy, articulation, information management, leadership and decision making in the context of operational counterterrorism.  The semester of exercises culminates on April 8 when the students are organized into teams and work for hours in a final simulation —an exercise where students work through how to manage a terror attack.

For this year’s class, I’ve worked as a teaching assistant to help design the simulation. I can say with full confidence that this course was one of the most rewarding classes I have taken in my collegiate career.  Learning the basics of the behind the scenes work done has been not only great for my education, but great for my resume.  For those who are interested, we will be broadcasting the simulation live on our YouTube Channel at 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tune in to watch as law students put newly acquired counterterrorism skills to use.


Zachary Bloomer is a third-year law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.