This summer I had the great opportunity to go to Cambridge University and be a part of the International Security and Intelligence program through Pembroke College. I was able to participate in the program with support from the Leeanne J. Dunsmore Study Abroad Scholarship. It was a small intimate program of around 50 students. The students in the program ranged from undergraduates to graduate students to practitioners from all around the world. Each person had a distinct background, and through our numerous discussions I was able to learn something new every day.
The program consisted of formal halls, seminars, guest speakers, discussion groups, and supervisions. Formal halls were where we all got dressed up and ate in the hall with peers, fellows and professors to engage in intellectual debates. Seminars were lectures that ranged from the history of intelligence in the United Kingdom, to Snowden, and the Cambridge Five. The program also invited numerous guest speakers who previously worked in high positions in the intelligence community. After each lecture we were allowed time for Q&A and a lunch period to get to know the speakers better.
Something unique to Cambridge University is supervisions. During supervisions a group of five students and a supervisor met twice a week to dissect each other’s essay topics. From the beginning we were pushed to think about our essay topics, and for four weeks intensely dissected each other’s essay. At first this was a difficult concept for me to grasp because I have never had such an intense discussion on an essay topic during class and I have never been criticized by my peers before.
In the end, I wrote my paper on Social Media Intelligence and the role it plays in intelligence analysis. It took me time to narrow in on this topic, but because of the hard work I put into it, I was very happy with the essay I produced. I appreciated the supervisions and believe that it helped improve my essay and pushed me to come up with a creative essay topic that I would not have written on otherwise. I believe that supervision was such a helpful experience not just in my academic career but in my future career path, it taught me how to choose a research topic and an appropriate research method, to include finding counterarguments and limitations in my argument. If I were to duplicate a practice at Cambridge, it would be to insert supervisions in the American University System.
My interest in policy throughout my academic career made this a refreshing program that helped me better understand the intelligence community. The program also helped me understand the relationship between policy and analysts. I believe that academically and professionally the program has made me well round, by preparing me for the working world, teaching me methods on how to think creatively, and the appropriate research methods to use.
I had the rare opportunity to glimpse into what Cambridge students’ experience. I believe this program was the best way for me to end my educational career and I appreciate the opportunity.
For more information about this program, offered through SIS, please visit: www.american.edu/sis/summer/Cambridge.cfm