I first became interested in START in February 2014 after discussing Dr. Gary LaFree’s lecture, “Black Swans and Burstiness: Countering Myths about Terrorism” in my Deterring Terrorism class at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). After hearing Gary speak, I knew that interning at START was something I wanted to pursue, and so far, the experience has been well worth it.
I am currently a political science major at UMBC expected to graduate in May 2017, and an intern on the Dataverse team under the supervision of Michael Distler. As one of the two Dataverse Assistant Editors this semester, I am responsible for archiving data and preparing it to be uploaded onto the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) for dissemination to the public. Using software such as the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Word, I edit data in order to create codebooks and metadata. This semester, I am focusing on a project analyzing a study of Muslims from Ottawa about their opinions on the United States’ war on terrorism.
I hope to eventually become a research analyst in homeland security, and already feel I am gaining valuable skills that will help me achieve my career goals. For example, I am learning how to use SPSS, a widely-used research tool. I am also expanding my world view by learning more about Muslim opinions on terrorism and global conflict. Additionally, I am gaining lots of knowledge and career advice from the enrichment program, a series of lectures aimed at START interns. I attended the Data Inference and Analysis workshop held by John Stevenson and became more proficient in analyzing graphs and statistics. I also very much enjoyed Mansoor Moaddel’s lecture “Religious Nationalism, Islamic Fundamentalism, and Trend Values in the Middle East: Findings from Cross-National Values Surveys.”
I am soon looking forward to presenting a Significant Terrorism Activity Briefing (SigTAB), an approximately 45 minute presentation to START staff and researchers on recent significant events in terrorism and counterterrorism with several other students. My goal in this upcoming SigTAB is to become more knowledgeable on counterterrorism practices while polishing my presentation and analytical skills in a professional environment.
I have very much enjoyed the atmosphere and collaborative work environment at START. I admire the “open door policy” that many of the busy full-time staff and researchers have. I feel like I can talk to any of the researchers or staff members any time about my questions or concerns. I also appreciate the focus on transferable skills that START invests in all of its interns, so they can be marketable to any future employer or graduate program. I am looking forward to continuing to network professionally and to developing skills that will translate to a career in homeland security.