The Security Studies Summer Institute cohort for 2023 stands on the steps of Healy Hall, the historic Georgetown building.
Category: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Featured News, News

Title: Georgetown Center for Security Studies Welcomed its Second Annual Security Studies Summer Institute

Author: Brandon Williams, Ashliyn Burgos
Date Published: September 8, 2023

On June 11th, 2023, the Georgetown Security Studies Summer Institute welcomed its second cohort of 16 undergraduate students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) nationwide to the Hilltop. 

The Summer Institute, conducted through the Center for Security Studies (CSS) in the School of Foreign Service, seeks out HBCU undergraduates, targeting rising college juniors interested in the broad field of security. The students receive a weeklong immersive experience, exposing them to security-focused studies and career paths. 

The 2023 cohort met with leaders in the security field, including current and former national security officials, ambassadors, industry leaders, SFS faculty, and more. These individuals helped to shed light on the role and impact of career and educational opportunities within the security field, facilitating open and deep discussions regarding their experiences.

The 16 Summer Institute students stand in front of a bright blue backdrop with Director Jen Easterly at CISA.
The 2023 Summer Institute Cohort visited the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), where they toured the CISA watch floor, learned about the work CISA is doing in coordination with HBCUs in the Bombing Prevention Office, and met with Director Jen Easterly to discuss career opportunities in cybersecurity and at CISA. Photo courtesy of CISA.

Over the course of a week, the students saw what life is like in the Security Studies Program (SSP), met with Georgetown University career development professionals, and created new bonds and connections to last a lifetime. One of this year’s students said, “[It’s] a great program. It was definitely more than I thought it would be, and I would do it all over again!”

Breaking Barriers

CSS established the summer institute in 2022 with the goal of improving diversity in the field of security. The opaque nature of the security field often precludes many from pursuing it as a career. The institute aims to demystify the security field and reduce barriers to entry that often discourage minorities from considering careers or graduate education in security. As financial cost is a common barrier, CSS covered the entire expense of the program and paid a $600 stipend to each program participant. 

The Summer Institute students stand together in front of eight flags at the National Security Agency.
The Summer Institute cohort visited the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, where they learned about careers in the security field. Photo courtesy of the NSA.

The week of activities included site visits to various agencies and security-related organizations, seminars, question and answer sessions, and networking events, which gave participants exposure to a variety of security-related topics. The institute’s programming was structured around the concentrations offered at SSP: intelligence, international security, military operations, technology and security, terrorism and substate violence, and U.S. national security policy. 

Professor Liz Grimm stands in the middle of the Summer Institute students, who are sitting in a U-shape around the room. There is a screen behind Professor Grimm that reads "Terrorism and Counterterrorism."
During the week, Summer Institute students heard from various Security Studies Professors, including Dr. Liz Grimm, who presented on Terrorism and Counterterrorism.

A Look Behind the Veil

During the week-long institute, participants met with senior leaders, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Jen Easterly, and Deputy Under Secretary of the Army Mario Diaz. They spoke to the students about their own career paths and the value of careers in public service and national security.

The 16 Summer Institute students stand in a curved line with US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield, standing in the middle of the line.
On Day Two of Summer Institute programming, the students had the chance to speak with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The speaker sessions, some of which were held in sites such as the Pentagon, Google, CISA, and the National Security Agency, gave program participants insights into the inner workings of the security field and the numerous career pathways available to them. “This is like a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of people, […] a lot of very high-ranking individuals that look like us. It was kind of surreal,” participant Camryn Agee emphasized

Creating an Inclusive Workforce

As many of the program’s participants are rising upperclassmen, they are beginning to focus on future employment and graduate graduate school options. Overviews of the Charles B. Rangel and Thomas R. Pickering fellowships, led by Pickering Fellowship Program Director Sterling Tilley and Diplomatic Fellowship Senior Advisor Clayton Bond, informed students about fellowship opportunities that prepare students for future careers in the State Department. Ambassador (retired) Alexander Arvizu also spoke with participants about Georgetown’s Donald F. McHenry Fellowship, which funds graduate education for students interested in careers in foreign affairs.

Ambassador Alex Arvizu presents on the McHenry Fellows Program at Georgetown University to the Summer Institute students seated in a U-shape in front of him.
Ambassador Alex Arvizu discussed Georgetown’s McHenry Fellows Program and his experiences as a Foreign Service Officer with the Summer Institute cohort on day two of programming.

Additionally, the program sponsored networking mixers throughout the week where participants met with SSP alumni and current diplomatic fellows. Isaiah Barber noted, “The networking opportunities were exceptional and ultimately enabled us to forge connections that will undoubtedly shape our future endeavors.” A’Thalia Hinton, another participant, spoke of how relatable the young SSP alumni and fellows were. “It’s been really helpful because they’re not too far ahead of us so they still can relate to the position that we’re in now.” The SSP alumni, fellows, and security experts who participated in the mixer events gave program participants advice that they wished that they had received as young minority professionals in the security field. 

Lasting Experience

With the end of this year’s Security Studies Summer Institute, participants have all returned to their respective universities with greater insights into career and graduate education opportunities in security—and a new community of friends and colleagues.

The Sumer Institute students stand outside, in front of a flagpole flying the American flag. The sky is cloudy and there is a tree to the right of the students gathered for the photo.

In his reflection on his experience with his peers, Isaiah Barber remarked, “Although we were all HBCU students, we each came from diverse backgrounds and brought a unique perspective and set of experiences. Engaging in conversations with my peers about their career aspirations and thoughts on national security was invaluable […] Despite our differences, we all shared a common drive and passion. This shared sense of purpose brought us closer together, fostering a supportive and collaborative environment and giving me an incredible opportunity to network with career professionals and my peers.” Barber’s reflection encapsulates the experience that the program aimed at imparting upon its participants and the work that CSS hopes to continue with future cohorts. 

For those interested in applying for the 2024 cohort, information about the next application cycle will be available this fall on our website.

Hear from the Summer Institute Students


More News

The Georgetown Security Studies Program is delighted to welcome Renanah Joyce to the faculty starting in the fall of 2024. Renanah Joyce joins SFS as an Assistant…

The Georgetown Security Studies Program is delighted to welcome Rush Doshi to the faculty starting in the fall of 2024. Rush Doshi joins SFS as an Assistant Professor…

The SFS Security Studies Program represented at the NATO Public Forum on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The NATO Public Forum, co-organized by NATO, the Eastern Europe Studies Centre, the German…