A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

In training the next generation of scholars and practitioners, START offers its students a chance to publish their work on this blog.

Latest Intern Blog Posts


Latest Intern Blog Posts

In furtherance of its educational and professional development mission, START invites its students to write about their research experiences with the Consortium. Their work is featured on this START Student Blog. START students interested in blogging should contact Jessica Rivinius at rivinius@start.umd.edu.

The posts within this blog represent the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of START or any office or agency of the United States Government.

Friday, September 8, 2017

I do not know Richard Collins III and Nabra Hassanen personally, but I have been affected deeply by their deaths. I cannot truly know or feel the pain and suffering their family and loved ones are going through, because I am not in their shoes. I am writing this blog to honor the legacies of the short lives of both Lt. Collins and Nabra, two innocent young souls who were brutally murdered, and to reflect upon their amazing accomplishments. Richard and Nabra, this is for you...

Richard Collins III, a black Bowie State student and an Army Lieutenant, was fatally stabbed in an unprovoked attack, which took place on the University of Maryland, College Park campus, while he was waiting for an Uber. Lt. Collins was killed by Sean Urbanski, a member of the now-deleted Facebook group called Alt-Reich Nation, which posted disparaging content about women, African Americans, Latinos, and others. He was killed three days before his graduation from Bowie State University. Instead of his... read entire post

Monday, September 4, 2017

Throughout the course of my internship with the Global Terrorism Database, two news stories I reviewed really stuck with me: an incident in which Iraqi police deactivated a suicide vest worn by an 8-year-old under a Chelsea football jersey and an attack in which explosives detonated at the holy sites of Jonah’s Tomb and the Great Al-Nuri Mosque. While tragic videos like these affected me deeply, what best describes my internship with the GTD: Incident Location and Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) team are the times I spent desperately searching for the locations of villages like Peroni, Afghanistan, Ouelessebougou, Mali, and Gowasarey, India. Whether navigating Google Earth or translating location names in Wikimapia, little compares to the unique satisfaction of finally discovering the latitude and longitude of a remote village you’ve been trying to locate for 15 minutes.

Prior to interning at START, I was primarily interested in international relations and U.S. foreign... read entire post

Monday, June 12, 2017

As the conclusion of my tenth and final semester of my undergraduate career nears (yes, tenth) the distinction between scholarship and practice has begun to emerge from the fog. At some point in our lives, we have all attended a lecture and thought retrospectively, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?” Perhaps if the focal point of your undergraduate scholarship is to be a statistician, accountant, astrophysicist, or nuclear engineer, sure, this question seems rather arbitrary. “I’m going to use this the second I graduate to make lump-sums of cash,” your conscious will tell you. However, as a communication major, the age-old question we all find ourselves asking in courses we feel don’t pertain to our future doesn’t have such a straightforward answer.

The transformation from a former student-athlete at a Division III college hoping to springboard to basketball fame and fortune (shoot for the stars they said) to an average Joe at the... read entire post

Friday, May 12, 2017

As student interns at START, we employ a number of analytical tools to fulfill our mission of providing data-driven research to public-sector clients, as well as the general public. One tool the Advanced Research Interns worked with this semester was the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) methodology. The intelligence community uses ACH methodology when there are multiple potential explanations for adversary behavior or several possible outcomes from actions taken by an ally. It is particularly useful for controversial issues because it requires analysts to leave an “audit trail” of what they have considered and how they arrived at their hypothesis (or hypotheses), rather than jumping to a conclusion and finding support for it later.[1]  The end conclusion is rarely stated as definitive – analysts are often dealing with an uncertain future or opaque adversary decision making – but rather it is stated as which hypothesis or group of hypotheses are most supported and least... read entire post

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My name is Tegan George, and I am a second-year graduate student at the University of Maryland, in the department of Government and Politics. This semester, I applied for– and was fortunate enough to receive– an internship with the Risk Communication and Resilience department here at START. In my day-to-day studies, I mainly focus on Middle Eastern politics and conflict, so this semester working with the risk communication team has been a rewarding experience for me in more ways than one. While I had several friends during my undergraduate years who majored in communication or related fields such as public relations or marketing, I was unfamiliar with the extant scholarship, as well as the subfields within the field broadly. While much of the literature and writing styles were similar to what I regularly encounter in political science, I was surprised at the depth and breadth of literature on niche and nuanced risk-related topics, such as how communications differ based on what “... read entire post

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It was May 28, 2008, and the weather was calm. I had just finished playing a baseball game at a park about 45 minutes from my house and my family decided to celebrate the victory with a trip to Damon’s Grill & Sports Bar. Following lunch, my mom opted to make the solo trek home while my brothers and I continued our day with a quick trip to the mall. The sky opened up and rain started falling but it felt like nothing out of the ordinary.

We were leaving Macy’s, my brothers with bags weighing their arms down, when my mom called. She explained calmly and matter-of-factly that a tree had fallen through our house. She said it fell through the entire house and we would likely be displaced for quite some time. My mom typically isn’t dramatic, but it was impossible for my brothers and me to understand the scope of the situation until we saw the damage for ourselves. There, we saw the house that raised us, the very foundation upon which I took my first steps, mumbled my first... read entire post

Thursday, January 5, 2017

As the semester is winding down and final exams are quickly approaching, I find myself reflecting back at my first experience working with START as an intern in the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) with Incident Locations and Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT). Prior to the START internship, I did not have much applied experience working with a large database containing terrorist incidents. I was a student in the Federal Semester Homeland Security Policy Program, a selective program for UMD students interested in Homeland and National Security, which combines a fall semester course taught by expert practitioners with enrichment events and workshops throughout the year to help students excel in professional internships and careers in the future. I was able to use all of the information and knowledge I have gained through the Federal Semester program and my Homeland Security course to help me be successful at my internship with START.

As a GTD intern, I regularly used the Global... read entire post

Thursday, December 1, 2016

September 11 pushed the topic of terrorism to the front of minds and into the national discourse. Terrorism became something we worried about. Something we researched. Something we tried to solve. I know I’m not alone in wondering why seemingly normal or otherwise rational people might join violent causes. The wondering has motivated me to search for answers through research examining the causes of such radical beliefs and behaviors. In conducting research for the Narratives/Counter-Narratives project at START, I look at how al-Qaida and ISIS target their communication to individuals living in the United States. These narratives we review refer to not only the content of violent extremist messages, but the way in which they communicate and tailor these messages to a particular audience to convince people of the legitimacy of their beliefs and recruit them to their cause. The project goal is to create a public knowledge tool that can be used by policymakers and practitioners to... read entire post

Friday, November 11, 2016

The following is a student blog authored by a START intern.  These editorial columns reflect the opinions of the author(s), and not necessarily the opinions of the START Consortium. This work was originally published in the Georgetown Security Studies Review (GSSR), the official academic review of the Georgetown University Center for Security Studies (CSS).

Nearly every time an American is revealed to have a connection to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin is quoted about the ​danger this poses to the United States: “We have a responsibility to stop those who would travel overseas to join [ISIL], both because of what they do over there—murder, rape, slavery—but also because we don’t want them going over there, getting additional skills, training, and coming back as hardened operatives to do complex attacks here in the United States.”[i]  ​

Americans can’t be blamed for believing that... read entire post

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

START’s main focus might be researching terrorism, but what drew me to an internship here was its use of cross disciplinary research, which allows it to explore related fields. I was looking forward to expanding the use of this cross disciplinary approach as a member of the Risk Communication and Resilience (RCR) team under Holly Roberts. The Risk Communication team is the ideal example of START’s versatility when it comes to research…my tasking during the first few weeks ranged from researching the resilience of hospitals to understanding the mechanisms associated with communicating risks.  

Researching the resilience of hospitals was especially rewarding as I was able to experience first-hand the importance of cross-disciplinary research. The overall objective of my research was to assist with UMD’s Women in Engineering training camp by providing potential ways to mitigate risks for hospitals when confronted by a natural or man-made disaster. In a time where the... read entire post

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