by Elizabeth Bone

Map of worldwide biological attacks (1990 - 2005)

Professor Jeff Knopf, program chair of the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies (NPTS) program at the Middlebury Institute, and I discuss careers in international security.

We specifically look at careers countering terrorism, WMD proliferation, and financial crime.

Careers Fighting Terrorism, WMD Proliferation, and Financial Crime

Jeff Knopf:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to our webinar on careers fighting terrorism, WMD proliferation, and financial crime. My name’s Jeff Knopf. I’m a professor here at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey. I’m the chair of our master’s degree program in nonproliferation and terrorism studies.

Elizabeth Bone:

I’m Elizabeth Bone. I’m the career and academic advisor for the NPTS [Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies] program. Prior to coming to MIIS [the Middlebury Institute of International Studies], I spent 20 years as an intelligence analyst working for the military and also as a defense contractor supporting the department of Homeland Security in Washington D.C. My previous career means I bring with me both public and private sector experience in the career fields that NPTS students are interested in pursuing.

Jeff Knopf:

Fields that we work on are part of the domain of international security. This is an area where the challenges can be somewhat depressing and bleak sometimes. So it’s very important, I think, to start with a note of hopefulness. Here, in Monterey, we got a great shot in the arm a few years ago. The then UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, came out to give a major speech here on our campus. He stressed the importance of education, because this is the way in which we train future generations of leaders to take on the challenges of addressing problems like proliferation and terrorism. Very importantly, he reminded all of us that the things that we do individually, we can be part of the solution to addressing these challenges. Next slide please.

Jeff Knopf:

As you can see, the challenges are sometimes quite scary. Those of us who work on issues related to WMD proliferation are looking at the spread of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons around the world, the things that can be done to prevent that spread, and to respond to such weapons after they fall into the hands of new actors. The terrorism field, of course, is dealing with non-state actors who engage in violent extremism. We’re interested in everything from the origins of terrorism, the way in which it evolves and changes over time, and of course, again, the policy toolkit for responding to it.

Jeff Knopf:

Students who come to study here also have an opportunity to do a specialization in financial crime management. What we mean by this is efforts to prevent things like money laundering or illicit trafficking activities that can be used to finance terrorism or proliferation. And then, some of my colleagues here also work on issues related to cybersecurity, basically ways in which all our connections through the internet can be exploited for, again, nefarious purposes.

Jeff Knopf:

These are all fields that are part of what are sometimes called asymmetric threats, ways in which the conventional military power of a super power, like the United States, can get neutralized or worked around by using asymmetric means. These have been defined to some of the leading global security challenges of the 21st century. The range of policy tools that gets used here is quite vast. Everything from diplomacy, to information, to economic and financial sanctions, to deterrence and military threats. Given that these are ongoing problems that don’t show any signs of going away anytime soon, unfortunately, and that there’s a whole range of policy tools that are used to try to combat these threats, this opens up a very wide range of potential career fields for people who are interested in trying to do something to address these challenges. There’s really nobody more perfect to tell you about the career opportunities that are out there than my colleague Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Bone:

Just building on what Jeff was talking about with the global security challenges that we’re currently facing. These aren’t going away anytime soon. Jobs in these industries are relatively immune to the ups and downs in government hiring. The State Department confirmed this last week when they were here on campus visiting, telling us that, despite what students may have heard, the State Department is definitely hiring, and is also true for other intelligence agencies as well.

Elizabeth Bone:

One trend is the growing private sector opportunities in all of these fields. For example, we’re seeing Silicon Valley companies, like Facebook and eBay, hiring our students as intelligence analysts, working in their global security offices. Another trend we’re seeing are MIIS alums moving back and forth between the private and public sector throughout their career. In some cases, the private sector offers a chance to get a foot in the door in a government office.

Elizabeth Bone:

One MIIS alum who’s been in the nonproliferation field for 12 years is a perfect example of moving back and forth between public and private sector. While primarily working for the National Labs as a program manager throughout her career, she also has worked for a private firm as a nonproliferation specialist before going to work for the IEA in Vienna as a nuclear security officer, and then going back to the National Labs as a program manager. If you want to consider an expanding field, financial crime offers jobs in many government agencies, multilateral organizations, and the private sector. Private sector jobs can include everything from financial crime investigators in the financial sector to sanctions compliance specialists in private sector. One trend in all of these fields is the preference given to students who complete an internship with a company or a government agency. In some cases, a student can even obtain a security clearance during their internship, give them a huge leg up when applying for jobs.

Elizabeth Bone:

Next slide, please. The MIIS website has a career outcomes page for NPTS that lists information we have compiled from the classes of 2013 to 2017. Taking a look at the pie graph from this page, you can see that just over 50% of NPTS students work for the public sector and government jobs. The next largest segment is the private sector, followed by nonprofit NGOs, such as think tanks, and the international organizations like the United Nations.

Elizabeth Bone:

Next slide please. In the next slide, once you see this on your screen, it’ll list a bar graph of industries NPTS students work in. Not surprisingly, the largest bar is the intelligence security sector, followed by technology science, and then policy related jobs. Many of our students work for the US government in a variety of agencies, such as the Department of Energy, State Department, or one of the 17 intelligence agencies.

Elizabeth Bone:

Some students choose a more technical route and work for a National Lab, such as Lawrence Livermore, which is located very close to Monterey. Private sector companies include Facebook, as mentioned earlier, and consulting firms like Deloitte. International organizations, like the UN and the IEA are popular for both student internships and then follow on jobs after graduation. Think tanks, like the Stimson Center, are also possible places for our students to work. For financial crime students, many choose to work in traditional banks like Charles Schwab.

Elizabeth Bone:

I keep track of all the places where NPTS students have gotten jobs, which right now stands at over 300 organizations. That’s a large number of opportunities for students to consider and can sometimes feel overwhelming. But part of my job is helping students narrow down their job search through self-reflection and envisioning, to help them see where they want to be at different stages in their career.

Elizabeth Bone:

Next slide please. We talked to a lot of employers about what they’re looking for in an employee, and then bring that information back to MIIS. There’s a list of skills that we have heard employers mention they’re looking for. They get mentioned time and time again. These include specialized in-depth knowledge of a field. The employers also tell us they highly value interpersonal skills, leadership, and an ability to put things into context. One employer said during a recent visit to MIIS that interpersonal skills will define how much you will succeed, especially in the private sector.

Jeff Knopf:

Of course, one of the things that’s very important here is what we do on the campus to make sure that students who graduate from here leave with all of the skills that you need to succeed in the workplace. This is going to come about through a combination of the opportunities, learning opportunities, you get inside the classroom, plus outside the classroom activities that are available to you. In our teaching, one of the things that we really put a lot of priority on is trying to convey to our students a combination on the one hand of subject matter knowledge so that you will leave here as experts in these fields already, and on the other hand, a set of practical skills that are the kinds of things that employers look for so that you can hit the ground running when you start a new job.

Jeff Knopf:

One thing that’s really nice about teaching here in Monterey is that our campus, we only do professional master’s degrees. We’re affiliated with Middlebury College, which does liberal arts undergraduate education, but they’re out in Vermont separate from us. We’re not part of a big research university that does PhD students. Unlike a lot of other professional master’s programs out there, which are embedded in a university that has undergraduates, master’s students, and PhD students, at those universities, faculty may be teaching in multiple different programs, support staff have responsibilities for multiple different kinds of student populations. Our program focuses on specific subfields like nonproliferation and terrorism, and we’re not trying to do all of global security in the program. You have an amazing opportunity, because we can provide both classes and training opportunities that let you go really, really, in depth. When you leave from here, you can legitimately say, I’m an expert about nuclear proliferation, or I’m an expert about violent extremism.

Jeff Knopf:

In addition to the expertise, the practical skills are really important. I want to highlight two baskets of those. One is that we provide language education here. We have, in some ways, held the line and being a little bit of an old fashioned place. We require all students in the NPTS program to take three semesters of advanced language training with the goal of making sure that you are sufficiently fluent in the professional use of your language of study that you could operate, if necessary, in that second language. We hear all the time, from our alums, that the language education they got here either got them in the door to their first job, or was really crucial for getting them a promotion, once their employers found out that they had these skills.

Jeff Knopf:

I think about one student, we could barely keep her on campus long enough to graduate. She had Korean language and she had also gotten a lot of training in geospatial analysis. As you can imagine, there was a certain government agency here in the United States that was very anxious to bring her in and barely let her stay on campus long enough to graduate.

Jeff Knopf:

In addition to the language education, we want to give you hands on training on a lot of practical skills. We have some nice ways to do that. We sometimes bring in outside practitioners to come to Monterey and do what we call a weekend workshop, where you will spend the weekend with that person learning firsthand from a practitioner how they do what they do. The range of workshops here is really interesting. You can study things that you get anywhere, like data analysis.

Jeff Knopf:

Beyond that we have courses and workshops in things like social network analysis, geospatial analysis, which is where you look at satellite imagery and figure out what’s going on, how to set up and run a tabletop exercise. We have a dedicated workshop that trains students how to write a policy memo and give a government briefing, so that if you get a government job, you already know how to do those skills. Those things are a huge leg up for our graduates. That’s just the classroom half of what we do.

Jeff Knopf:

There’s also a ton of opportunities outside the classroom that also are hugely valuable for building up your knowledge and your skills. There’s a lot of what is sometimes called immersive learning that can take the form of a traditional internship where you spend a semester somewhere else. That can also sometimes be a kind of classroom experience. For example, we have an arrangement with the Czech Technical University in Prague. Every January, we send a team of students there for two weeks and they get to literally play with the research reactor at this university and learn how a nuclear reactor operates. If you were to have a future career, say, as a weapons’ inspector, you would have some sense of how nuclear technology functions.

Jeff Knopf:

Another thing that’s really wonderful here is that we have two incredible dynamic research centers hosted on our campus, both of which work very closely with the NPTS program. We have the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, known as CNS. They’ve been here 30 years. CNS is the largest NGO in the world dedicated to research and education specifically around issues of WMD proliferation. In addition to their headquarters here on our campus in Monterey, they have an office in Washington DC and another office in Vienna, Austria. So, there’s lots of opportunities to travel around to these other places and interact with government and international organization folks there.

Jeff Knopf:

We also have a relatively new center called CTEC, which stands for Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counter Terrorism. That speaks more to the terrorism, half of our program. At the moment, they’re doing some really interesting sponsored research from a grant source I can’t name, looking at how far right wing extremist groups use the internet and social media to try to recruit and promote their cause.

Jeff Knopf:

Our research centers do a ton of, of really valuable things that supplement the education here. They bring in lots of outside speakers to give talks, but they also hire a lot of students whose graduate research assistants to work directly on the research projects at both CNS and CTEC. We also have, sometimes, some major conferences that happen here. We have an annual conference around threat financing. And we have a ton of student clubs that students participate in, which also themselves bring in interesting outside speakers. Next slide, please, Tevin.

Elizabeth Bone:

In my office, the Center for Advising and Career Services can help students manage their careers through our unique integrated academic and career advising model. We provide very personalized support to the students and can help students choose the right classes to meet their career goals. For example, I might suggest a student, who’s interested in intelligence analysis, to take our course called Analytic Tradecraft Methods. If a student’s thinking about a career in diplomacy, perhaps I would recommend the class International Crisis Negotiation Exercise, which we do every year with the Army War College.

Elizabeth Bone:

From day one, we introduced career management skills to students, such as self-reflection, envisioning exercises, all the way to more practical skills, such as resume writing, cover letters, and salary negotiation, best practices. We also could help connect students to one of the over 300 organizations I mentioned earlier by consulting our alumni database and then seeing where alumni are currently working. Lastly, our support doesn’t end when students graduate, as we provide lifelong advising for students who are alumni at MIIS.

Elizabeth Bone:

Next slide, please. We’d like to finish the presentation by highlighting a few NPTS alumni, so that you can see the variety of career paths that our students follow. You can also find these profiles on the NPTS career outcomes page.

Elizabeth Bone:

Kyle is featured here, and she’s currently working for the National Nuclear Security Administration after interning at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and then working as a research assistant at Ploughshares Fund.

Elizabeth Bone:

Next slide. Michelle also intern at Lawrence Livermore, but then went the private sector route and is currently working as an intelligence analyst for eBay.

Elizabeth Bone:

Next slide. Lastly, David’s example of the financial crimes path as he first worked for the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, and then moved on to be the head of compliance at an Norwegian technology firm called Auka.

Elizabeth Bone:

Next slide. Wanted to leave you with a picture of the beautiful Monterey waterfront area. Jeff and I are happy at this time to take any questions you might have.

Speaker 3:

Hi, Jeff. Thanks for the presentation. I’m from London, England. I just wanted to ask the question about prerequisites. My background, I’m from the financial services. I work in private banking, and I’m looking to change careers more recently. This is something, it’s been one of my interests. I wanted to know, do you require people to have any prerequisites, for example, you need to have done a degree in politics, or history, to apply for your master’s program? Or is it, generally speaking, open to people from different educational backgrounds?

Jeff Knopf:

Right. Great question. Welcome, London. This is an easy one to answer. We assume no prior background, so there’s no prerequisite to come into the master’s degree program here. We get students from all sorts of disciplinary backgrounds. Some people will have done an undergraduate major in political science or international relations and have a reasonable background coming in. Some people will come from a more technical background, like chemistry or biology.

Jeff Knopf:

We love to get people who are coming out of the workforce, like you, who can actually bring… If you were to come here, you’d be a great asset for the students here, because they learn from you about your experiences working in the financial sector. Because students can come from such a different diversity of backgrounds, and because the program itself has an interdisciplinary program, it doesn’t make sense for us to have prerequisites. We just have built into the curriculum a set of introductory courses that just assume zero prior background. That initial set of introductory courses is what we use to get everybody up to speed. And then, once you have those, you’re basically released to go take all the advanced courses and dive in real deep into the things you want to specialize in.

Speaker 3:

Thank you.

Jeff Knopf:

You’re welcome.

Jessica Juarez:

Hi, my name is Jessica Juarez, and my question is regarding the CNS. I want to know if the different CNS locations have a different research focus.

Jeff Knopf:

A little bit. All of them focus on certain core areas. They have a long tradition working on international diplomacy around nonproliferation, the status of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, NPT review conferences, different regions of focus. There’s some people who focus a lot on the US, Russia relationship. Others who focus on Northeast Asia, especially North Korea, these days, Middle East. The office in Vienna has a close working relationship with two of the big international organizations that are based there, the IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. Vienna has a strong focus on those two nuclear related organizations, and then just European diplomacy in general. There’s a lot of European diplomats based there. Our Washington DC office, as you might imagine, has a little bit more of a focus on US government policy. They do a lot of short courses there to bring in US government employees to get up to speed on current nonproliferation issues. The home office, here in Monterey, is a little bit more academic in nature, so a lot of the big research projects are run out of Monterey.

Jessica Juarez:

Thank you.

Jeff Knopf:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mariam K.:

Hi, thank you both for an awesome presentation. I have a quick question. Would you say that most students leave Monterey between their first and second years to go outside, maybe somewhere else in the States, or even outside of the States, to intern? Would you say that is a very common thing for the students to do?

Elizabeth Bone:

Yes, definitely. There’s the opportunity to both do an internship over a semester period, and then definitely during the summer in between your two years of the program. That’s very common. As I mentioned earlier, we definitely emphasize that internships are a great way to get your foot in the door in certain organizations. That’s something that we help students look for, for their summer in between their program.

Jeff Knopf:

Do you want to say maybe a little bit more about the official internship programs we have here too?

Elizabeth Bone:

Sure. We also have two programs that focus on semester long internships. One program is for academic credit, it’s called EPSS. Basically, it’s students who can either do an internship within the US or outside abroad. They get up to 12 credits towards their degree requirement for that internship. And then, we also have another internship that’s connected through CNS. And so, that would be nonproliferation related. That is a not for credit internship, but they have amazing relationships with many, many, organizations, such as the United Nations. We have students go every year to New York, to Vienna, to participate in the nonproliferation related internships.

Jeff Knopf:

Those are often paid internships as well, if that makes a difference.

Mariam K.:

Great. Thank you so much.

Jeff Knopf:

I think I see some things in the chat box here. This first one might be for you.

Elizabeth Bone:

Sure. Actually, I might take the one that talks about looking at many programs. Someone who’s looking at many programs in Washington DC, but wants to know if there’s an advantage to this program that’s in Monterey, California, which is a great question. I think it’s interesting to know that over 80% of federal jobs are actually outside the Washington DC area. I think it’s something that people don’t always realize. Actually, the number one state for federal jobs is California, followed by Virginia, and then Washington D C. There’s that aspect. There’s also, of course, our proximity to Silicon Valley, which we take advantage of through different types of trips to… I think in a couple of weeks, we’re going up to the Government Account Accountability Office, and they will be taking us on a tour of their Oakland office. There’s many types of government related jobs located outside of the Washington DC area.

Jeff Knopf:

I might actually add a little bit to Elisabeth’s answer here. There’s also, of course, a lot of employment opportunities outside the US government. We have a great record of placing students at the UN headquarters in New York, or international organizations based in Vienna or Geneva in Europe, or Mexico City for Latin America. Employers, what they’re going to be most interested in is the quality of the education you got and your credentials. We’re really well known quantity. People in our fields, they know who we are, they know what our track record is. If you’ve studied here and they see all these really cool sounding course titles on your transcript, and you get letters of recommendation from faculty or researchers here who are really well known in the field, that’s better than just being one of a thousand students come out of some random program in Washington DC.

Jeff Knopf:

The other thing that can be nice about being here is that a lot of people like to travel to Monterey for meetings or conferences that we have here to give a seminar at one of our research centers. If you get somebody who’s a current high ranking US government official, who’s come out here for a meeting or to give a talk, they’re often here by themselves. They don’t have their staff with them. They don’t have their Blackberry with them. You can get some incredible personal face time with them to get to know them that would never be possible when they’re in their native environment in DC. Actually, as the program chair for this, this is probably the number one myth that I want to drive a stake through its heart. It’s really not the case that you have to study in DC if you’re interested in a US government job. You will have great access to government jobs studying here. Plus it’s a lot nicer here.

Elizabeth Bone:

I just want to add one more thing that our office brings a number of us here on campus for employer sessions. Like Jeff said, because we’re a much smaller organization here, there’s a lot of one on one interaction between students and perspective employers. For example, when the CIA recently came for a visit, the students have the opportunity to sign up for one-on-one 20 minutes to 30 minute sessions with those recruiters, and really get some very personalized feedback on their resumes and any other type of questions they had for that agency.

Elizabeth Bone:

So we have a couple of other questions. One of them is, is there a typical profile of your most successful student? And this maybe goes back to, we know what employers are looking for. And so, those are the things that we emphasize. Certainly, as a student who takes advantage of all the opportunities here, there’s so much, as Jeff was mentioned, to do. Everything from the student led clubs to taking advantage of just being in the area and so close to Silicon Valley. We have a partnership with the Navy Postgraduate School where students can take classes in their curriculum, which is such a great addition. I think just having a student that makes the most of their two years here, takes advantage of those internship opportunities, and just makes the most of their time.

Jeff Knopf:

Yeah. I mean, I think there’s no secret recipe here. The path to success is essentially you get out of the program, what you put into it. People who come here consult with Elizabeth about the right set of courses for them, and work hard in those classes, take advantage of opportunities outside the classroom, belong to student clubs, to an internship, go to the talks at CNS and CTEC. That person is going to be in great shape for going on the job market.

Jeff Knopf:

The other thing that we try to do, although I guess maybe this is the one piece of secret sauce that we don’t talk about in our written documents, but we sometimes talk amongst ourselves about what people refer to as soft skills. That’s the interpersonal stuff. It can be very trivial, but where sometimes realized that people don’t always have the training to know what to do. For example, if you’re used to emailing all the time with your friends and your family, you will have a certain tone and way of writing an email that isn’t necessarily the best match for when you’re emailing with a potential employer. And so, we will also take time to try to give you some guidance just on very small things like that, that help you to present to other people as a professional in waiting, that you already have been socialized to be able to fit into a workplace and know the unspoken rules about how things work.

Elizabeth Bone:

It looks like that might be all the time we have.

Shensha:

Hi…it’s Shensha from New Delhi. I have done my master’s in conflict studies. I gather that you are not offering the PhD program, right?

Jeff Knopf:

That’s right. That’s right, no PhD program here.

Shensha:

So I just want to confirm, if you are conducting any kind of research program. My focus of study is the on terrorism, especially the Islamic terrorism. I have done my master thesis on Muslim extremism, especially in India. I just wanted to confirm if you have any such program on terrorism, specifically on Islamic terrorism.

Jeff Knopf:

Yes. Research gets conducted here by members of the faculty on an individual basis. We have people who follow a pretty traditional academic model and they do research, and writing, and they publish in academic journals, and the like. And then, research gets conducted here also under the umbrella of our research centers. So, the terrorism research will come out of CTEC, our Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counter Terrorism. The specific example I gave when I mentioned them is some recent work they’ve done on domestic far right wing violence in the United States. Historically, I would say for the last almost 20 years now, the central focus of people here has been Islamist inspired terrorism. The most senior terrorism faculty member of our program, Jeff Bale, has published extensively about militant Islamic organizations and jihadist type groups.

Jeff Knopf:

We also have a faculty member full time who specializes in South Asia, Sharad Joshi. He’s interesting because he writes about both nuclear weapons in India and Pakistan, but also about just jihadist activities in the region. In the last year or so, he published a really interesting article where he looked at how jihadi groups, inside of Pakistan, have seized on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and presented themselves as defenders and champions of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program as a way of burnishing their nationalist credentials, and trying to win sympathy and support with Pakistani public opinion. It’s a great example of the kind of research that can be done here, because we have these two distinct fields of study, but we do both of them. Sharad, because he looks at both WMD and terrorism, was able to identify this really interesting linkage where a terrorist group used a nuclear weapons program as part of its propaganda for why people should support their terrorist campaign. It was a fascinating piece of research. It was published in the journal, Asian Security, if anybody wants to look it up.

Elizabeth Bone:

It looks like we’re almost out of time. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to either email Jeff he’s at…

Jeff Knopf:

Jknopf, J-K-N-O-P-F@MIIS, M-I-I-S, .edu.

Elizabeth Bone:

Or myself, Elizabeth Bone at, Ebone, E-B-O-N-E@MIIS.edu. Thank you very much for coming.

Jeff Knopf:

Yes, we enjoyed talking to you and we hope to see some of you here in Monterey one day.

For More Information

Elizabeth Bone
ebone@miis.edu
(831) 647-6676

Bringing More Voices into Security Discussion

by Eva Gudbergsdottir

A group of women scholars from the Middlebury Institute have launched the West Coast chapter of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS), an international nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing more voices into the security conversation.