A new University wide program is creating a path toward public service careers for all Syracuse University undergraduate and graduate students interested in making important contributions to US and global security.
The University was designated by the US Intelligence Community (IC) last year as one of eight national Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence (ICCAE), with a funding award of $1.5 million over five years. The IC is composed of 17 federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the National Security Agency and the Office of Naval Intelligence.
With the designation and funding, Syracuse University leads a consortium of four institutions—known as the Partnership for Educational Results/Syracuse University Adaptive, Diverse and Ethical Intelligence Community Professionals (PER/SUADE)—to recruit and educate culturally and ethnically diverse, multidisciplinary professionals from many different backgrounds interested in the intelligence field.
As a federal award recipient, Syracuse University’s ICCAE adopts an inclusive definition of diversity that moves beyond demographics to include the broad range of perspectives—from military veterans, women in security, to those with different abilities—all of whom are needed for the kind of emergent challenges facing the United States and the world.
Syracuse University’s ICCAE consortia partners are the Grove School of Engineering, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Norfolk State University and Wells College. The ICCAE seeks to build career pathways toward positions within the Intelligence Community and increase capacity to attract and educate talented under-resourced students with diverse experiences.
Entry-level positions within the IC can be difficult to obtain without experience, but the program provides a step up for students interested in an intelligence career through unique experiences and specific coursework.
“There’s no question that it is in the vital interest of the Intelligence Community to have as diverse workforce as possible because its mission is to understand diverse populations and diverse activities taking place around the world,” says Vice Admiral Robert Murrett (retired), principal investigator (PI) on the grant and deputy director of the Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law (SPL). “You can’t do that when you all look the same, have all the same points of reference and come from the same place.”
Interested students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, including historically underrepresented students, students from different areas of the United States, women, student veterans and students of all abilities are encouraged to apply to the program.
The IC needs a variety of people and perspectives to better understand the whole picture of intelligence that is gathered to keep the nation safe and increase peace and security globally, says Corri Zoli, co-investigator on the award, associate teaching professor in the College of Law, research assistant professor in the Maxwell School and director of research with SPL.
“No one predicted the Arab Spring [a series of anti-government protests in countries in North Africa and the Middle East beginning in 2010]. That was an oversight on the part of our intelligence agencies,” says Zoli, who wrote the award and designed the IC Center for Academic Excellence with former Dean of Engineering and Computer Science Laura J. Steinberg, who is also a co-investigator (CO-I).
The Hon. James E. Baker, director of SPL and professor in the College of Law and Maxwell School is also a co-primary investigator (CO-PI) on the award, and faculty from the College of Law, Maxwell School, College of Engineering and Computer Science, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Falk College and elsewhere are co-investigators, creating an interdisciplinary award. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Keith Alford and Suzette Melendez, faculty director of inclusion initiatives in the College of Law, are also co-investigators on the award.
“If you have diverse perspectives, the assumption is you’re not going to be missing huge swaths of experiences in the world because you’re going to have people who are more familiar with those places, those experiences, those communities,” Zoli says.
The IC also seeks a diversity of professionals in a variety of fields for its various intelligence operations.
“Each member of the US Intelligence Community has a different mission in the collection, analysis and dissemination of information relating to security concerns around the world,” says Murrett, also a professor of practice in public administration and international affairs in the Maxwell School. “Many of the organizations are part of US cabinet agencies or associated with military services.”
The IC is looking for professionals with both valuable functional abilities, such as critical thinking and speaking and writing skills, and subject matter expertise—along with the character traits of dedication, honesty, integrity and the ability to speak truth to power, Murrett says.
With so many professional opportunities in the IC, students from all disciplines across all of the University’s schools and colleges are encouraged to apply.
“For students pursuing a law degree, a master’s of public administration or international relations or a bachelor’s in public policy, they can do legal and policy analysis and planning at any of these agencies and develop intelligence policies that are both lawful and reasonable,” says Zoli, who explains the work of the Intelligence Community, including its covert operations, is based in US law.
There are opportunities for those interested in regions and area studies, international aid and human rights and those pursuing one of the critical languages designated by the IC, such as Arabic or Hindi.
“Anyone in the STEM fields who is interested in new categories of threat like cyberwarfare, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics would also be a good fit,” Zoli says.
Students pursuing a Ph.D. in the humanities—such as studies in culture, religion and philosophy—would be able to use their highly developed analytical skills in a variety of areas in the IC.
Zoli explains how each agency brings together professionals to work on initiatives that are improving lives and helping maintain security around the globe: “For the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, you could be working on mapping conflicts in the South Chinese Sea, looking at the best places for developing internet capacity around the world or counterterrorism spotting.
“The IC is looking for such a broad area of expertise that literally anyone who is successful in their academic degree program and wants to contribute to US security would be eligible,” Zoli says.
Students who are accepted into the program are required to take one of three core courses on the IC and two or more electives, and attend three ICCAE events per semester, including an annual symposium. Other opportunities include IC site visits in Washington, DC, study abroad, and networking and recruiting events with IC agency members.
Program members are also eligible to receive stipends to attend IC-related workshops, colloquia, conferences and participation in ICCAE program summer seminars, and may apply for scholarships. Students will also have opportunities to participate in IC internships and co-ops.
One upcoming event is the consortium’s Spring Symposium, which will be held Monday, March 2, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in the Hall of Languages, Room 500. Consortia partner faculty and students will be visiting Syracuse University from New York City and Virginia and panels will include teaching about intelligence, diversity experiences in the IC and faculty research. Speakers will include Julie Martin, chief counsel, National Counterterrorism Center, and Jonathan P. Gupton, with the Department of Energy. The campus community is invited to attend.
The benefits for students can be substantial. Along with networking and internship opportunities at various agencies, students will gain a deeper knowledge of the work that is done by the IC and why it matters.
“Students will have a better understanding of how the intelligence apparatus works from a national standpoint but also in other countries,” Murrett says. “It makes you a better citizen of whatever country you are from and better able to understand developments around the world around the contexts of the intelligence field and international security.”
For more information about the program and how to apply, visit the Syracuse University Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence website or contact Zoli at 315.443.4523 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Murrett at 315.443.3682 or email@example.com.