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Rutgers receives $1.95 million grant to establish a defense intelligence program

Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, John Cohen, currently serves as director of the new Center for Critical Intelligence Studies (CCIS). – Photo by Flickr

In January 2015, Rutgers became a federally-designated Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence (IC CAE) through a competitive $1.95 million grant from the Defense Intelligence Agency. 

"(As an IC CAE) the goal (is to develop) sustainable national security and intelligence programs to educate and inform students at Rutgers University,” said Ava Majlesi, the acting director of the Rutgers Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. 

Rutgers competed against more than 50 universities for the grant and is currently the only Big Ten School to hold this distinction. As a result of the grant, Rutgers University—New Brunswick recently established a minor in Critical Intelligence Studies. 

This year, recognizing student interest in the subject matter and seeking to build on their existing programs in this area, the University also established a Center for Critical Intelligence Studies (CCIS). 

The Center is housed in the Rutgers Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, formerly known as the Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, Majlesi said. 

The Center is currently undergoing structural changes and will now encompass two other centers in addition to CCIS, for which John Cohen, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, serves as director.

Cohen came to Rutgers in 2014 with over 30 years of experience in the homeland security and law enforcement fields. He previously served as the acting-under-secretary and principal-deputy-under-secretary for intelligence and analysis of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to his University webpage

The other two centers are the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience (CPR) and the Center on Policing (CoP), formerly known as the Rutgers University Police Institute.

CPR is directed by John Farmer, the former dean of Rutgers Law School and special counsel to University President Robert L. Barchi. Farmer is the former attorney general for New Jersey and acted as senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, according to his University webpage. 

CoP is directed by Linda Tartaglia, according to a press release.

“To expand the academic opportunities available to graduate and undergraduate students at Rutgers, and to help guide those students who are interested in ... working in that profession, both by providing them opportunities to interact with professionals in the field, but also to have the (necessary) skills should they get a job in these professions,” said Cohen about the three main goals of CCIS.

One goal is to offer continuing education opportunities to professionals working in the field of law enforcement and intelligence, he said. This would help educate professionals working in the Intelligence Community, and state and local law enforcement. 

Majlesi said the new minor in Critical Intelligence Studies, which was developed in collaboration with the Department of Political Science, is affiliated with the Center. She also serves as the program advisor for the minor. 

The minor allows students the opportunity to develop the needed skills and perspective in preparation for a career in intelligence analysis and related fields, such as research, writing and briefing, she said. 

This is accomplished by teaching not only “the nuts and bolts of intelligence work,” Majlesi said. But also by encouraging students “to take a critical look at the Intelligence Community and reflect on the complicated, messy policy issues.” 

Students are also given exposure to internship and study abroad opportunities, she said. The classes feature guest lecturers from the FBI, CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 

Required courses for the 18-credit minor program include Introduction to Critical Intelligence Studies, taught by Farmer and Majlesi and Critical Thinking and Analytic Writing for the Intelligence Community, which is taught by Cohen. 

Students are also required to take classes to enhance their understanding of cyber security issues, and to facilitate awareness of “the international context of intelligence work” through language or area studies courses, according to the program website.  

“We specifically chose not to create a major (in Critical Intelligence Studies),” Farmer said.

He explained that they chose to develop a minor to complement virtually any major available through the School of Arts and Sciences, because the Intelligence Community seeks individuals from a wide array of academic backgrounds. 

Majlesi echoed this sentiment, noting that students should select a program of study they enjoy rather than what they think will be useful when finding a job. 

“Yes, a major in engineering or computer science with a minor in Critical Intelligence Studies might seem very marketable, but if you have absolutely no interest in the subject matter you’re not likely to do well in the courses — which would significantly hinder your future job prospects,” Majlesi said. “If your passion is Russian literature or biochemistry or entomology — go with it — and consider pairing it with a minor in Critical Intelligence Studies.” 

Students did not begin to officially declare the minor until the Fall 2017 semester, she said. Thirty students have formally declared the minor thus far, though Majlesi said she believes the unofficial number is much higher. 

“I advise new students who plan to declare the minor almost every single day,” she said. “And my inbox is flooded with students who would like to meet to discuss the program.” 

Majlesi said she anticipates significant growth in enrollment in the coming semester and beyond. 

Courtney Davenport, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, is involved in the minor program. She said she first became interested in the Intelligence Community after taking a Byrne Seminar with Farmer and Majlesi. 

“I know that this area of study will provide me with the knowledge needed to excel in this field ... it also helps to be surrounded by brilliant peers who really push me to think analytically,” she said in an email. 

Davenport is working as an intern for Majlesi this year, helping with the recent structural changes taking place within the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. 

She also helps to market internships and jobs, maintains the Center’s social media presence and gives presentations on the minor, she said. 

The Institute runs a variety of other programs and opportunities available to students, including a week-long IC CAE Certificate in Intelligence and National Security delivered by CCIS each July. 

Farmer said the United States has the most sophisticated, extensive and perhaps the best intelligence system in the world, and that every American should be knowledgeable about issues in the field.

“It’s a critical act of citizenry to be educated about the history of national security issues and the issues which dominate American society,” Farmer said. 

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