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Q&A: Professor on coordinating McDaniel College’s new national security program

McDaniel College’s new National Security Fellows Program will offer students a $250 grant, internship opportunities with federal agencies and a wide-range of career paths.

Francis Grice, a professor of political science and international studies, will be the program’s coordinator and he explained the benefits of the program and all it has to offer. Applications for the program will be available in the spring. The Times recently caught up with Grice via email to discuss the new program.

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Q: How did the idea of a national security program come about?

A: The idea for the National Security Fellows Program originally arose during internal discussions in the McDaniel College Department of Political Science and International Studies about how to refine and enhance our efforts to deliver the most meaningful outcomes for McDaniel students. These conversations led us to recognize three key facts: First, national security is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States, with many companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies looking to recruit graduates with skills and knowledge in this critical field.

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Second, we are fortunate to have a range of faculty across McDaniel College with strong expertise and connections in national security and related topics.

Third, many students throughout the whole college already have strong career and academic interests in this area and future students are likely to continue this trend.

With these considerations in mind, we concluded that creating a new multidisciplinary program on national security would yield strong benefits for students and that we were ideally positioned with the right people and tools to deliver this program at an exemplary level.

Q: Why did you decide to run it?

A: My background is in the field of security, including a Ph.D. in Defence Studies from King’s College London, past experience of teaching military officers at the United Kingdom’s Defence Academy, and seven years of teaching on topics related to this field at McDaniel College. I also have a growing research record that includes multiple publications on security topics, including my 2019 book, “The Myth of Mao Zedong and Modern Insurgency.” My higher-education interests therefore aligned fluidly with the content and goals of the program that we wanted to put together.

Moreover, when I was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor last year, I wanted to take on new and expanded opportunities to engage with the students in the field of national security in innovative ways. This new role seemed like an ideal opportunity to this end.

Q: What are some of the new classes created for the program?

A: One prominent new class is “Essentials of Security Studies,” which is the foundation course for the program. This class will provide McDaniel students with knowledge about the fundamentals of security students, including some of the global and national threats we face today, such as nuclear weapons, terrorism, civil wars and cyber warfare. It will also introduce them to a range of subjects in the field, including those covered within traditional security studies, homeland security, peace studies, international law and ethics, and the anthropology of war.

We have also created some other courses recently with this program in mind. One example is the new January Term course, “Statecraft, Diplomacy, and War,” which will involve students working in teams to represent different nation-states in responding to various security situations and crises in an industry-leading online security simulation.

Finally, we have quite a few existing courses that will continue to be offered on a regular basis and will contribute to the program, including “Terrorism and Counterterrorism,” “Conflict Resolution,” “Surviving Totalitarianism,” “Artificial Intelligence” and “Gender, Violence, and Crime.”

Q: Fellows receive a $250 grant to use on national security related events or projects. Could you give an example of what that type of event or project would look like?

A: One of the most exciting parts of the new program is the meaningful co-curricular and pre-professional development opportunities that we will provide for students to help them gain real world experience, build new connections, and open new doorways into the field of national security. The idea of the $250 grants is to help students defray some or all of the costs involved in taking part in these opportunities.

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The grant funds could go toward joining one of the national and international simulations with national security dimensions that McDaniel participates in each year, such as Model United Nations, Model Arab League, and Model European Union. It could also go towards participating in the many internship opportunities that the program will support students with applying for, such as internships with the State Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Other examples include presenting academic papers at prestigious research conferences, which in recent years included presenting on topics such as democratization, human rights, radicalization, and memories of war at conferences in Indonesia, the Philippines, Istanbul, and California, in which students. National Security Fellows may also attend professional conferences to obtain new career knowledge and skills, such as Humanitarian Assistance’s University Scholars Leadership Symposium, which takes place annually in different parts of the world.

Q: What are the benefits of being an affiliate and how does a student become one?

A: The National Security Program includes two core programs. The first is the National Security Fellows program, which is the more comprehensive of the two, and which will offer a variety of security-themed college courses and co-curricular experiences that students will undertake during their studies in order to graduate from the college as Fellows.

The aim of the other program, the National Security Affiliates program, is to offer students who are interested in national security (but who do not want to take on the full new academic program of the fellowship) the opportunity to still obtain valuable exposure and experience in this field. Students will be able to sign onto this program by completing a short Expression of Interest online form at any point during their time at McDaniel, after which they will receive regular email updates with information about upcoming national security events, job and internship opportunities, and other related topics.

Q: What are some of the things graduates can do after college with this program under their belts?

A: Graduates with skills, knowledge, and experience in national security are in high demand by government departments and agencies, the corporate world, and the non-profit sector.

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In government, graduates could pursue careers in intelligence, counterterrorism, cyber security, the military, the emergency services, defense procurement, research and analysis, disaster management, and more besides. Just some of the federal departments and agencies that have interests in students with knowledge and skills in national security include the Department of Homeland Security, the Foreign Service, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon. There are also many roles available at the state and local level.

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In the corporate world, there are a wealth of opportunities for graduates to work for companies in roles relating to cyber security, risk analysis, infrastructure protection, business growth, compliance, research and development, strategic consultancy, operations management, journalism, emergency preparedness training, and many more. It is worth noting that national security jobs exist not only within traditional defense oriented companies such as Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman, but also across most small, medium and large companies as this is an area that affects almost every aspect of both the strategic and the day-to-day operations of businesses today.

In the non-profit sector, graduates will be able to find positions with many national, regional and international organizations that carry out work relating to conflict resolution, outreach and development, research and analysis, disaster relief, education and awareness raising, and more besides.

A recent example of a former student who completed a variety of our existing courses relating to national security in the past, and is now working in the nonprofit sector in a highly relevant job based upon the skills and experiences she gained from these courses, is Leanna Jasek-Rysdal. After graduating from McDaniel in 2016, Leanna spent a year working for AmeriCorps before completing a fully funded Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution and Research Assistantship with the University of Denver. She is currently putting her skills and experience to good use in her dream job – helping with restorative justice work as a Teen Court/Youth Services Coordinator for the City of Lone Tree in Colorado.

Q: Do you have an idea of how many students would be interested in the program?

To date, I have had roughly 100 students sign up for updates about the program and its impending first opening of applications for National Security Fellows this coming spring. I have also had numerous conversations with students who are interested in the program. I am hoping to have around 25 students signed up as full National Security Fellows during the first year of the program, with the others joining the National Security Affiliates program. These are rough estimates and we have some flexibility available depending upon levels of interest, so the numbers may be higher or lower once the application process is carried out in the spring.

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