NIU Students Present Research at Third Annual Interuniversity Symposium

April 6, 2023

 

General Mike Hayden speaking to the students and attendees during the lunchtime conversation with Hayden Center Director Larry Pfeiffer.
General Mike Hayden speaking to the students and attendees during the lunchtime conversation with Hayden Center Director Larry Pfeiffer.

 

Sharing research and conducting academic outreach with other institutions beyond the classified environment of the intelligence enterprise are important aspects of the National Intelligence University’s (NIU) mission within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the broader Intelligence Community (IC). Two graduate students from NIU recently participated in an interuniversity challenge and presented their unclassified research at the third annual Intelligence Studies Consortium (ISC) symposium titled, “New Perspectives in Intelligence Studies.” George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government hosted this year’s event on March 24, both virtually and in person, for over 150 registered attendees.

The symposium kicked off with a keynote address by the Department of Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Shannon Corless, who discussed her career highlights and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis’s role within the IC, as well as how it is adapting to the ever-changing cyber landscape and expanding its coverage of illicit cyber actors.  Hayden Center Director Larry Pfeiffer engaged former NSA and CIA Director General Michael Hayden in a lunchtime conversation, during which General Hayden described how the U.S.’s security challenges have shifted over the years, emphasizing the importance of applying lessons learned to current strategic threats, such as great-power competition with China.

The purpose of the annual symposium is to solicit new insights from students at ISC universities specializing in intelligence studies—at either the graduate or undergraduate level—particularly in areas that are critical to intelligence and national security. Students from ISC universities George Mason University, Georgetown University, James Madison University, Johns Hopkins University, the Institute of World Politics, Marymount University, Texas A&M University, and NIU submitted abstract proposals, which were judged by ISC faculty representatives. Leading up to the symposium, the ISC relied on the National Security Innovation Network’s UNUM—a networking platform that brings together leaders from defense, academic, and venture communities—to host the challenge and enhance collaboration among universities.

The selected students were ultimately organized into four panels to present their research, which spanned a range of issues including, Russia, China, violent non-state actors, emerging technologies, and transnational challenges—all of which were key topics at this year’s annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

SSA Tim Pappa presenting his research on his firsthand experiences in Indonesia, where he shadowed a Muslim proselytizer.
SSA Tim Pappa presenting his research on his firsthand experiences in Indonesia, where he shadowed a Muslim proselytizer.

The NIU students focused their research on two very distinct topics—each with their own set of national security implications. Tim Pappa, a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a student in the Master of Science and Technology Intelligence (MSTI) program, presented his ethnographic research titled, “Mirroring a Muslim Proselytizer.” He provided a detailed account of his field research—which consisted of shadowing a progressive Indonesian proselytizer for 45 days—on relational authenticity and communication styles among conservative Islamic pesantren (boarding school) communities in West Java.

Major St. Jean presenting her research on the need to advance climate change literacy within the IC.
Major St. Jean presenting her research on the need to advance climate change literacy within the IC.

Major Levinia St. Jean, an Air National Guard officer and a MSTI student, presented her ongoing thesis research titled, “Climate Literacy in the IC.” She focused on the need for a shift in education and training across the IC workforce, identifying how climate change education is vital to our understanding of how climate change impacts the community both internally, such as adapting professional development education, and externally, such as responses by adversaries. She argued that climate change is more than just lessening the number of airplane sorties, using energy-efficient fuel, or reducing waste; it has geopolitical impacts on food security, supply chain management, and energy shifts, which will change how the IC addresses short to long-term problems. Major St. Jean described the symposium as a great experience and an opportunity to engage with the academic world.

NIU faculty lead and symposium coordinator Dr. Christopher Bailey facilitated the NIU student participation and moderated a separate panel on “Emerging Technologies” with students from Marymount University and George Mason University. Dr. Bailey is planning to support ISC students who are interested in publishing their presented research.

To expand partnerships between the IC and academic institutions, the ISC hosted its first-ever Career Fair on April 6 at the Washington, DC campus of Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service’s to provide students the opportunity to meet recruiters from IC and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as from private sector companies that support U.S. national security. Participating federal agencies included CIA, DIA, FBI, DHS, NCIS, NGA, NSA, ODNI, U.S. Secret Service, and the State Department.

About the ISC: NIU established the ISC in 2018 to promote engagement and cooperation between academic and government organizations. The ISC provides an integrated forum for the member universities to work together exploring issues and engaging in solutions that improve national security. The participating universities have national security-focused academic programs and unique relationships with many government agencies. The ISC seeks to develop these relationships and provides a venue for the discussion of critical intelligence and national security issues.

Disclaimer: NIU student abstracts and presentations were approved by ODNI’s prepublication review team. All statements of fact, analysis, or opinion are the student’s and do not reflect the official policy or position of NIU, ODNI or any of its components, or the U.S. Government.

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