Fresh Insights: NIU Launches Pilot Seminar Series Addressing Topics of Interest to the Intelligence Community (IC)

Dr. Paul Stares, Senior Fellow on Conflict Prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, was one of the first distinguished guests invited to speak at the university seminar series. One of the NIU faculty members was impressed with his presentation and looks forward to inviting him back. Photo courtesy of NIU.

In the fall quarter of 2017, NIU introduced a pilot series akin to the familiar “coffee and conversation” sessions frequently found at universities and colleges. The seminars bring together students, faculty, and IC members for informal classified and unclassified conversations featuring topical experts from inside and outside of the U.S. Government.

The aim of the program is to expose students, faculty, research fellows, and members of the IC to new or different lines of thought—or, put another way, to expand NIU’s intellectual life by informing research, encouraging reflection, fostering collaboration and sparking debate.

For its most recent instance of the series, NIU welcomed Dr. Paul Stares, the General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Director of CFR’s Center for Preventive Action. In a fascinating conversation with attendees from NIU and various IC agencies, Dr. Stares discussed anticipatory intelligence and its relationship to preventive engagement.

Dr. Stares drew upon historical case studies and parts of his recent book, Preventive Engagement: How America Can Avoid War, Stay Strong, and Keep the Peace, to explain his notion of “preventive foresight” and how it can aid “preventive engagement.” In the process, he underscored the importance of prevention—that is, assessing risks (in addition to just threats)—in maintaining U.S. security and continued influence on the world stage. Towards the end of his remarks, however, Stares noted that “preventive foresight must be institutionalized and well-resourced” for it to be effective. In his view, preventive foresight, if successful, has the potential to minimize the need for U.S. military engagements abroad.

In addition to the seminar with Dr. Stares, this series has also already brought in specialists from the CIA, the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Centre for Russia, Europe, Asia Studies (CREAS)—Brussels. Building upon this initial foundation, in 2018 NIU looks forward to bringing in more experts from think tanks, academia, the private sector, and the U.S. Government (both IC and non-IC) to discuss and debate a variety of national security topics—from regional issues and weapons of mass destruction to diplomacy, data science, drug interdiction and more.

This series is just one more way that NIU is encouraging critical thought, fostering intellectual discourse, expanding connections, promoting research, and institutionalizing education across the IC.

Interested in finding out more about these seminars or when the next event is scheduled? Contact for more information.