Three Ursinus seniors got a closer look at the field of intelligence gathering this fall when they accompanied Hon. Joseph H. Melrose, Professor of International Relations, to the Intelligence Community – Centers of Academic Excellence Conference in Miami Beach, Florida.
The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), a coalition of 17 agencies and organizations within the executive branch, work independently and collaboratively to gather the intelligence necessary to conduct foreign relations and national security activities. While there they visited the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) which is responsible for Central and South America.
“It gave the students a chance to learn that Intelligence gathering is not just the cloak-and-dagger stuff that they see on TV or the movies,” says Melrose, Ambassador-in-Residence at Ursinus. “It utilizes a variety of disciplines. The conference also provided an excellent opportunity for the students to network.”
Until the conference, Erin Doby thought the only job opportunities in the IC field were for International Relations and Politics majors. “This conference showed me that the Intelligence community needs people from all fields,” says Doby, a Politics and Spanish major. “There are so many different organizations that make up the Intelligence community and they all need people with diverse backgrounds and interests.”
Looking ahead to graduation this spring, Jason Mullins wanted a great networking experience. “I had the incredible opportunity to speak with former and current intelligence analysts about their time in the field, which provided firsthand knowledge and anecdotes about the IC,” says Mullins, an International Relations and History major in his fifth semester of studying classical Arabic. “I wrote a paper while studying abroad at King’s College London about the role of Western intelligence agencies in predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the conference, I asked a former open-source CIA analyst about her experience analyzing the Soviet Union toward the latter stages of the Cold War. Her answers gave me a new, practical perspective gained outside the classroom.”
The students met interesting people from diverse backgrounds and established new contacts, he says. “I was able to practice my Arabic with a professor originally from Tunisia, who has since stayed in touch,” says Mullins. “I had the opportunity to present research based on my Summer Fellows work and host a Q&A session for an assorted crowd of IC professionals, professors and students. This was a chance to practice public speaking in a professional setting and react to difficult questions about my topic.”
Eva Bramesco is an International Relations and Spanish double major with a Latin American Studies minor. The organizations represented at the conference included the clandestine services, she says, but the field also stretches as far as the Coast Guard and the Department of Energy. “The field is much wider in scope than I originally had thought,” says Bramesco. “I’m now looking at my future differently in terms of what I might want to study in graduate school. I’m thinking now that I might want to gear that study towards a career in the IC.” – Kate Campbell