Anna Pavlos, a junior at the University of Maryland, can’t seem to get enough of START. This is not her first nor her second, but her third internship with the consortium. Pavlos is working toward a dual degree in Arabic and government and politics and a minor studying global terrorism through START.
After learning of START from a sorority sister in 2012, Pavlos applied for and earned an internship that fall working on an open source intelligence project.
Pavlos currently works on the Terrorism Propaganda Research Project within the University of Maryland psychology department. In dissecting several hundred transcripts of terrorist propaganda videos produced by al-Qaida and al-Qaida affiliated groups, the project aims to understand the meaning of the messages within, how the messages are conveyed and who the target audiences are.
As Pavlos and her team examines the transcripts, they catalogue message intentions such as “to defend the prophet,” "to prevent future grievances” and “to promote jihad,” and whether the approach used was rational or emotional.
Pavlos has just finished coding her second transcript.
“The transcripts we are reading are interpreted from Arabic and are rich in linguistic and cultural references and undertones,” Pavlos said.
“I feel as though I have a deeper understanding of the materials I am working with because of my background in Arabic language and culture.”
Once Pavlos’ work is finished and all the transcripts are coded, the research team will examine if the target audience, the message or the frequency of these tapes have a discernible pattern, and if those patterns change over time.
Throughout Pavlos’ three START internship experiences, she says her enthusiasm for the consortium has not waned but grown, attributing this to the “unparalleled” work atmosphere and the intriguing projects.
“I have worked on three very different projects, each teaching and exposing me to something different,” she said.
“It’s a constant challenge that allows me to feel that I am doing something worthwhile, helping fuel the ever-evolving field of terrorism research.”
Pavlos says her favorite research work thus far has been what she’s done through the START/State internship. It was a project that emboldened Pavlos to push beyond her boundaries by drawing from many different spheres of knowledge and imagination.
“It was amazing to have an opportunity like that while still studying as an undergraduate,” she said.
After she graduates in May 2015, Pavlos intends to spend a year abroad through the University of Maryland’s Arabic flagship program. However, Pavlos is uncertain of the exact location of her travels, saying, “We’ll see where it’s safe in a few years.”
Upon returning, she will apply for a position with the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service.
“I hope to build a career there and use my travel, language and interpersonal skills to aid American interests abroad,” Pavlos said.
Outside of her START internship, Pavlos is currently training for the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October. She also works at a smoothie shop on the university’s campus and enjoys watching some of her favorite television shows: "Criminal Minds," "Bones" and "Game of Thrones."