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At a time when international relations are stressed and terror attacks are prevalent, education is everything. Just ask Mary Kathleen Smith ’19. A student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, she’s pursuing a double major in Arab and Islamic Studies and Political Science, and this summer she had the unparalleled opportunity to gain hands-on, real-world learning on the international stage.
Mary Kathleen spent four weeks this summer interning at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre—an international resource delivering global open-source intelligence into the threats posed to governments, national security organizations and businesses by non-state armed groups. For Mary Kathleen, the internship only further solidified her career goals.
“Since I was a young girl, I always aspired to work for the government in one capacity or another, most specifically the State Department or Central Intelligence Agency,” says Mary Kathleen. “The internship reaffirmed this passion for intelligence and information gathering in the name of making the world we live in safer. I am not so idealistic as to suppose that every corner of the world can be saved, but maybe it can at least be understood with the aid of educated officials and well trained analysts.”
The internship allowed her to take a hands-on approach. She participated in debriefing meetings, examined and synthesized hundreds of reports and reviewed jihadist media.
“As a member of the team, I was granted a front row seat to the briefings, events, profiles, case studies and visual aids the analysts would compile surrounding particularly large or noteworthy attacks.”
While Mary Kathleen has been interested in intelligence work and the government since she was young, it was in in her Islam and the West class, taught by Hibba Abugideri, PhD, where she first recognized her interest in Islam.
“The class taught me to seek for the truth in matters of terror, rather than a stereotype, a skill which I carried over into my internship,” says Mary Kathleen. “I always joke that I owe ‘Dr. Abu’ my success thus far, but in reality she really does deserve a lot of credit for fueling my passion for Arab and Islamic Studies.”
Villanova University established the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies in 1983 in recognition of the critical importance of Arab and Islamic cultures. More about the center and its offerings can be found here.