| by Casey Mahoney MANPTS '12

Casey Mahoney in front of computer at office

Middlebury Institute graduates discuss how studying a second language and intercultural competence as part of their degree program set them up for success in their careers.

My name is Casey Mahoney and I am a graduate of the Middlebury Institute’s MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program, where my language of study was Russian. I am also an alumnus of Middlebury College. After MIIS, I worked at the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., as a Fellow in Threat Reduction and Arms Control.

Being able to access documents and media reports in a foreign language firsthand, directly from sources, was really important in my work.

Russian is integral to my job

Being able to access documents and media reports in a foreign language first hand directly from sources is something that’s really important. Living in Washington DC, just walking down the street, passing an Ethiopian restaurant with Aramaic script, or hearing languages spoken outside of Embassies as you walk by.

It’s really hard to forget that language is an incredibly important part of who people are. And the field that I work in, in international affairs and non-proliferation, it’s taking a step back and looking at the globe and what’s going on. The amount of conflict and misunderstanding that occurs, not just due to mistakes in translation but true inability of parties to communicate across cultural lines is something that I’m reminded of daily.

So while I’ve been at the Department of Defense, I’ve worked on programs that have worked with partners cooperatively to help reduce or secure or prevent the proliferation of materials that can be used by bad actors to pose weapons of mass destruction threats. Watching the news, it’s hard not to hear the letters WMD or to hear about a recent terrorist group or a recent terrorist attack.

And studying those issues was something that I felt like I could make a tangible impact, certainly in my career, that would allow me to go and do something in the real world afterwards. Learning language is one step that students who want to be leaders in this field, in the future, should take if they have the opportunity.

And I definitely felt that going to the Middlebury Institute was my opportunity.

Living in Washington, D.C., and walking down the street, passing an Ethiopian restaurant with Aramaic script, or hearing languages spoken outside of embassies as you walk by—it’s clear that language is an incredibly important part of who people are.

The field that I work in—international affairs and nonproliferation—is about taking a step back and looking at the globe and what’s going on. The amount of conflict and misunderstanding that occurs, not just due to mistakes in translation but the true inability of parties to communicate across cultural lines, is something that I’m reminded of daily.

The amount of conflict and misunderstanding that occurs, not just due to mistakes in translation but the true inability of parties to communicate across cultural lines, is something that I’m reminded of daily.

While I was at the Department of Defense, I worked cooperatively with partners on programs to help reduce, secure, or prevent the proliferation of materials that can be used by bad actors as weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Watching the news, it’s hard not to hear the letters WMD or to hear about a recent terrorist group or a recent terrorist attack. In studying these issues at the Institute, I felt like I could make a tangible impact—it has allowed me to go on and do something in the real world.

Learning a language is one step that students who want to be leaders in this field should take if they have the opportunity. And I definitely felt that going to the Middlebury Institute was my opportunity.