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June 3, 2003

Every day in every way, making us feel more secure: (Via BoingBoing.) A senior official in the Department of Homeland Security evidently got her Ph.D from a diploma mill.

Writes WashingtonTechnology, a division of Post Newsweek Tech Media:

Laura L. Callahan, now senior director in the office of department CIO Steven Cooper, states on her professional biography that she “holds a Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems from Hamilton University.” Callahan, who is also president of the Association for Federal IRM and a member of the CIO Council, is commonly called by the title “Dr.”

Callahan’s resume says she began her civil service career in 1984. Before joining HSD, she was deputy CIO at the Labor Department.

Hamilton University, according to an Internet search, is located in Evanston, Wyo. It is affiliated with and supported by Faith in the Order of Nature Fellowship Church, also in Evanston. The state of Wyoming does not license Hamilton because it claims a religious exemption. Oregon has identified Hamilton University as a diploma mill unaccredited by any organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Callahan could not be reached for comment after repeated calls to her office.

Faith In The Order of Nature Fellowship Church.

Faith In The Order of Nature Fellowship Church.

As the great Walter A. Willis said in similar extremis:



“Cor chase my Aunt Fanny round the psionics laboratory.”

Seriously, as a high school dropout with no college, I’d be the last to demand that everyone have an advanced degree, but jeez, I never realized that all you need for a high-paying job in the booming field of Fatherland Security was a mail-order sheepskin from Evanston, Wyoming. Much is explained. [09:05 PM]
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Comments on Every day in every way, making us feel more secure::

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 10:15 PM:

Not a diploma mill -- it calls itself an "honorary society", doesn't pretend to be a real degree, and is given by a real college (for the paltry fee of $100) -- but you might get a kick out of it: the University of Hard Knocks, College of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, courtesy of Alderson-Broaddus College in scenic and historic Philippi, West Virginia.

This "university" was invented by West Virginia publisher and character Jim Comstock (since deceased) in 1947. UHK has some distinguished "alumni", but is open to anyone.

There are a couple of similarly-titled "degrees" out there, but none as far as I know associated with an actual, accredited college.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2003, 10:48 PM:

My preference in millish sorts of organizations has always been the Universal Life Church in nearby Modesto, which will ordain anyone who asks. These days you can even do it online.

The philosophy professor who was my mentor starting out once announced at the beginning of a lecture that he had been given such an ordination as a gift for Christmas. He waved at us and said "Congratulations, your'e all married. Work out the rest of the arrangements among yourselves."

Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 12:41 AM:

Hmm, I wonder if someone working on the Total - er - Turtle - er - Terrier Information Awareness project could be persuaded to use their sophisticated database search technology to cross-correlate actual degrees issued with those claimed by senior Administration personnel....

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 07:55 AM:

At least she doessn't work fot the Dept. of Education.

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2003, 04:26 PM:

My Universal Life Church Doctorate of Divinity cost $25, but that was thirty years of inflation ago.

the talking dog ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 01:03 PM:

Well, look. Its not as if she SAID she had a degree from Hahvahd or Oxfuhd or something, and then didn't.

Her resume SAYS what the institution is. You take it at face value: you COULD ask-- Hamilton-- isn't that Hamilton College in upstate New York? (NO). Is it in Canada? (NO). Well, then, where the &^%$% is it?

Its in, ahem, Evanston, Wyoming? Oh-- that picturesque truck stop along Route 80 just over the Utah border? Exactly.

I ASSUME her relevant qualifications for the position are the same as ANY OTHER high standing member of the Bush team-- either having had a distinguished career as a Republican fundraiser, or being related to someone important, or being a close friend of the Bush or Cheney families.

CRO ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 03:31 PM:

As much fun as Bush-bashing can be, this doesn't appear to be much more than a career government official -- she's just an IT bureaucrat, as far as I can tell -- with a dumb, misguided bit of egoboost / resume padding.

A somewhat outdated bio of hers that mentions "Hamilton University" is here:
I do wonder where she got her B.S. and M.S., though.

CRO ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 04:13 PM:

Proving that it's way too slow at work today -- I can't believe I'm killing time sorta-defending a boring bureaucrat -- the following should put to bed the idea that Callahan is some kind of Bush Adminstration stooge:

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2003, 04:36 PM:

Talking Dog: I am reminded of a marvelous bit in John Sladek's _The Reproductive System_: One of the characters gets a key job because his application says he went to "MIT." There wasn't room to write out "Miami Institute of Technocracy."

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2003, 12:01 PM:


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Janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2003, 12:30 PM:

She's evidently been put on administrative leave. Means she's probably being paid while they sort out how bad a boo-boo this is.


Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2003, 01:26 PM:

Somewhere in my paperwork I've got a B.A. in Medieval Metaphysics from Miskatonic University, which I got for fishing a chit out of a cauldron of slime at a gaming convention.

Chaosium still has the full set of diplomas available, though there is a small wait for the doctorates:

Miskatonic University Degrees

Since I've actually been a talking head for two episodes of Ancient Mysteries in precisely this subject (and even did consulting for "The Magic of Alchemy"), I keep thinking that I should pick up one of the doctorates.

Phil ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2003, 01:17 PM:

I ASSUME her relevant qualifications for the position are the same as ANY OTHER high standing member of the Bush team-- either having had a distinguished career as a Republican fundraiser, or being related to someone important, or being a close friend of the Bush or Cheney families.

Or having been the webmaster for the White House website under the Clinton administration. Which she was. So it looks like this was one of those career-civil-servant promotions to a better-titled position, not some juicy piece of patronage designed to allow Fundamentalists to infiltrate ever deeper into our government. Disappointing, no?

MadJayhawk ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 01:23 AM:

As an employee of the White House during the Clinton regime wouldn't she had to undergo extensive FBI checks into her background? Surely something like this would not have been overlooked. She has been working in government for some time and is responsible for a $420 million budget. Not only does Ms Callahan need to be investigated further but how her resume slipped through the cracks of more than one personnel department in the government needs to be looked into as well. I am willing to bet there is a very interesting story here.

I was investigated for a month by the FBI for a very low level job once. They were exceedingly thorough in my case. People were calling me from all over asking me why the FBI was interested in me.

Janet Laylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 03:07 PM:

Hamilton University is, in fact, a part of the FION (Faith in the Order of Nature) church, which is the actual entity pictured in the 'campus photos' in the hamilton university website. FION's website is: http://www.fion-wy.org/ . In their website, they indicate the reasons for creating the university as: "As part of the Fellowship's Nature directed mission the Hamilton University was formed. The university is a Nature based institution of higher learning which grants university level degrees that are based in whole or in part of education obtained through Nature".

Two things come to mind after reading this.

1. Is one of the principal architects of the United States Cyber-security contributing large amounts of cash in the form of 'tuition' to a wyoming based 'kook' organization?

2. Could the hiring and retention of Ms. Callihan be determined to be part of the "Faith-based Initiative"?

Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 07:47 PM:

Don't be too impressed by background checks.

I worked for the federal government for three and a half years and was never: 1) fingerprinted 2) made to fill out my paperwork for a background check 3) the recipient of a background check of any sort. (I realized this as I was going through the papers in my desk when I was leaving, and found the paperwork about which they were going to "get back to me")

Now it was a science position and not a security position (or any position with authority or power or one that was even mildy interesting to describe), but still someone completely dropped the ball.