James Downs, associate professor of history and American studies, will spend the 2015-16 academic year studying medical anthropology at Harvard University.
Protecting foreign leaders, gathering top-secret information, combating terrorist cells — no, this isn’t the plot of the next James Bond movie.
It’s all in a day’s work for alumni like Justin Rowan ’98, a special agent in the U.S. State Department. This type of job is not for the faint of heart and it is hard to break into the field, Rowan recently told a group of interested Connecticut College students, so he urged them to “be patient, but persistent.”
“Apply to multiple agencies,” said Rowan. “You don’t have to be dead-set on one. The collaboration between agencies is so fluid that all you need is to get your foot in the door and get exposure.”
Rowan was one of three alumni who participated in a recent “Sundays with Alumni” networking discussion, “A Safe State: Careers in National and Global Security.” The program allows students to learn about specific career fields and network with alumni from various industries.
The panel also included Caitlyn Turgeon ’08, human capital consultant at Deloitte Federal Consulting, and John Cohen ’83 P’17, principal undersecretary for intelligence and analysis and counterterrorism coordinator in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. William Rose, professor of government and international relations, moderated the discussion.
As is often the case for liberal arts graduates, each panelist followed a unique path to their current career.
Cohen majored in history and minored in literature, then went on to work as a police officer in Los Angeles while taking graduate classes at the University of Southern California. He said the liberal arts curriculum at Connecticut College prepared him “to face the ever-changing, fluid world of national security.”
Turgeon majored in international relations and began a career in finance during the recent economic collapse. Wanting to leave the field, Turgeon spoke with Bruce Hoffman ’76, a terrorism expert and the director of the security studies program at Georgetown University. He encouraged her to enroll in the program, and she served as his research assistant during her time there.
“This was a good starting place for me, getting to work with an alumnus and seeing the path he took. The career office at the College does an outstanding job of connecting you with alumni and providing networking opportunities,” said Turgeon, who now works for a private company that partners with government agencies to solve critical human capital issues.
Rowan was an East Asian studies major at Connecticut College. He now works for an elite group within the U.S. State Department that secures embassies and consulates overseas, as well as protects foreign leaders domestically, providing a safe environment for foreign policy and diplomacy to take place.
As a student at Connecticut College, studying the culture and history of the many nations he now works in gave Rowan a better understanding of why certain conflicts take place. “The State Department and other government agencies have a habit of hiring from a variety of backgrounds to create a more well-rounded and diverse staff. Knowing the background of other nations can make you an asset.”
Other advice the panelists shared included:
Upcoming “Sundays with Alumni” programs include: “Sports and Business Management” on March 2, 2014; and “Event Management” on April 6, 2014. For more information, contact Beth Poole ’00 in the Office of Alumni Relations at email@example.com.
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Amy Martin (860) 439-2526, firstname.lastname@example.org