A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Intern Spotlight: Brittany Steele


Intern Spotlight: Brittany Steele

December 17, 2012Catherine Llamido and Sarah May

For soon-to-be-graduate and former START intern Brittany Steele, a career working in government is on the horizon. Armed with a degree in criminology and criminal justice, specialization in terrorism studies and first-hand experience working with the government, she will be on the job market next month. Active in Maryland's University Student Judiciary throughout her college career, Steele also worked as a START intern with the Profiles of Incidents involving CBRN by Non-state actors (POICN) Database and the Archive of Structured Trajectories of Islamic Radicals (ASTIR) project.

What sparked your interest in government and terrorism studies in general?
Ever since I was little I've always been a history buff. Social studies has always been my favorite subject. I remember before we went on a road trip, my mom would take us to the bookstore and I'd always pick out a history book. My family is also very patriotic and I have family members with a lot of ties to the military.

There is someone in every military branch, and my sister was actually born on the 4th of July. Although I'm from upstate New York, the September 11 terrorist attacks have continually been prevalent in my life. I had neighbors who were volunteer fire firefighters and they drove to the city to help as much as they could. If you live in New York, chances are you at least know someone in the city, and that event has impacted me since.

What are your experiences with working in the government?
I had the opportunity to work at the White House's Office of Presidential Correspondence, specifically in economics and foreign policy. On a case-by-case basis, I would work on analysis or coding projects, and communicate with other government agencies. This really gave me more exposure to what was going on in the world. Like most other college students, as a sophomore, I lived in my own little bubble, but through this opportunity I was able to communicate with citizens from all over the country.

Right now I am interning with the Supreme Court Police. I love working for them because I've always had an interest in federal law enforcement. It's a great learning experience because we get to sit in on some of the cases and meet and talk with the justices, even the retirees like Sandra Day O'Connor. On a day-to-day basis, the working environment changes, but on court days it can get really hectic because hundreds of people come.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love traveling, but in reality I haven't really traveled that much. I've been really fortunate with my spring break trip last year -- I got to spend a day in London, a few in days Belgium with my dad, and a week in Barcelona.

What have been your most formative experiences during your time at the University of Maryland?
Being in START's terrorism studies program has really helped me choose and explore my field of study. "BSOS 332: The Practice of Terrorism Studies" course is my favorite because of the professor, Monte Hawkins who formerly worked for the National Security Council in the Executive Office of the President. It is really interesting to hear the perspective of someone who has actually worked in the field at that level. START's minor program has also allowed me the opportunity to have some really cool experiences.

One of our classes was held in the Eisenhower Executive Building, and we spoke with someone who worked at National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on the Security Council. Maryland's adventure leadership program also really shaped me. It is a study abroad program where you get to take advantage being outside rather than in a classroom. We started out in Oslo and backpacked for almost a week across Norway. Then we kayaked on the ocean for five days in a row. It could get really crazy if it was storming or if we were passing these giants oil tankers or cruise lines. I was so surprised to see thousands of random small islands, one of which we got to camp on.