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Home > SI Students Take Initiative For Their Program

SI Students Take Initiative For Their Program

April 8th, 2008

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727
Col. Gordon Middleton, Director of the SI program
Col. Gordon Middleton, Director of the SI program

On Saturday, March 8 in Patrick Henry College’s Nash Auditorium, several well-tailored students spent their morning explaining the Strategic Intelligence program to their classmates. Colonel Gordon Middleton, Director of the SI Program, interjected comments throughout the morning, but mostly he watched from the sidelines along with the adjunct SI faculty and let his students speak for themselves. With contagious enthusiasm, these young people in their late teens and early twenties laid out the many perks of their unique program, from senior Erin Nekvasil’s paid internship at the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Red Cell, the project junior John Curry heads up. In the latter, students mentally pose as terrorists and imagine ways to launch and then to thwart deadly attacks on various strategic organizations.

“We need fresh, new ideas in the intelligence community,” Middleton outlined as the morning began. “And we are interested in producing servant leaders. Intelligence is a service.”

Possibly most exciting for many current and former SI students at PHC, senior Daniel Watson introduced their new brainchild, the Nathan Hale Council, a self-governing body for all SI students and alumni, formed to “consolidate gains as individuals and to accomplish things that individuals can’t do.” At a brainstorming session last fall, Curry, Watson, senior Isaiah McPeak, and others articulated a commonly-felt need for SI students to remain in contact after graduation.

“One of our major goals is to develop contacts for internships and even just for advice, since our faculty have limited time,” said Watson. “The general purpose is to support the overall SI program in ways the College administration cannot.”

The SI students have already adapted an ethics statement from West Point’s honor code, organized themselves into committees, and contacted interested alumni. The Nathan Hale Council’s briefing committee, for example, was responsible for assembling the Saturday morning information day.

“We believe that the Nathan Hale Council fulfils PHC’s desire for students to govern their own behavior,” Watson said. “The Council has no affiliation or tie to the school, other than that we are all PHC students, so that we have the freedom to police ourselves.”

Members of the Council also have plans to start a non-profit organization, the Nathan Hale Center. It will operate as a think tank, conducting intelligence analysis for the benefit of government agencies. In this way, the SI students plan to be able to stay connected long after they have graduated from Patrick Henry.

Also of keen interest to attendees, three PHC seniors described their intelligence-based internships. Because they often provide the benefits of security clearances and real-life experience on the job, almost all SI internships are paid, competitively.  

Erin Nekvasil, for example, who has wanted to work for the FBI since she was a little girl, has been interning at the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Psychology, she says, because “my interest is really specifically tailored to criminal investigation, and then to violent crimes.” Other seniors are interning at the Center for Strategic Management and at Jorge Scientific Company.

Outside of internships, those in the SI track participate regularly in intriguing activities like the Border Security Alert, which provides actual intelligence data to vendors. Other SI outlets include the Militant Islam Report; the Intelligencer, a weekly analytical journal published for the campus; and the aforementioned Red Cell.

John Curry explained the latter as a type of war game used my military intelligence analysts. A typical format includes three cells:  the “red” cell is a “surrogate adversary,” a “blue” cell plays the target, and a “white” cell the moderator. The PHC team, however, runs only a red cell, with members scouting potential “targets” on foot and then imagining how terrorists might go about attacking them. Red Cell therefore serves as a valuable mental exercise for any future analyst who will need to help policymakers anticipate the dangers of the twenty-first century.

“I really like [Red Cell], and we have a lot of fun with it,” concluded Curry.

Just before the Saturday morning gathering broke for lunch, guest speaker Nathan Shedd, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Policy Plans and Requirements, gave a lecture entitled “The Intersection of Intelligence and Policy.” With constant references to his deep Christian faith, he impressed on his audience the need for objective, truthful, far-seeing intelligence analysis in all kinds of policymaking. The analyst, he said, “holds the keys to the kingdom.” He urged the SI students to develop a strong faith in God as they stepped out into the workplace.

As the student-organized day demonstrated, the SI program at PHC is growing and thriving. Built on the broad core curriculum, the specific skills taught to those wishing to enter the intelligence community acquire special efficacy. Students will be graduating better-equipped than ever before.