At Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence Summit, ODNI Leaders Gather to Show Support, Appreciation for its Academic Partners

At Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence Summit, ODNI Leaders Gather to Show Support, Appreciation for its Academic Partners


To help recruit the next generation of national security experts, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) manages a program that awards grants to colleges and universities across the nation that prepare students for careers in national security.

The Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence (IC CAE) Program was established in 2005 to partner IC agencies with academic institutions in their shared pursuit to develop a cadre of diverse, qualified intelligence professionals. Its success relies on the IC’s strong partnership with and the hard work of Principal Investigators (PI) – faculty members that ensure colleges and universities have curricula that prepare students for current and future national security challenges and serve as liaisons between ODNI and the academic institutions.

Cynthia Snyder, IC Chief Human Capital Officer

IC Chief Human Capital Officer Cynthia Snyder characterized PIs as having “the vision, knowledge, resources, and experiences needed to equip their students for national security careers.” Those key elements, along with their “passion for the mission, is building a stronger, more resilient, and more secure nation.”

From Feb. 21 to 24, PIs and program leaders representing more than 40 IC CAE institutions gathered at the in San Antonio, Texas to hear from ODNI leaders about the future of the Intelligence Community, develop and plan curriculum, share best practices, and participate in training.

San Antonio, Texas is home to one of the largest concentrations of military bases in the U.S., the National Security Agency Texas Cryptologic Center, the Southwest Texas Fusion Center, and some of the biggest, most recognized industry companies. It’s also where University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) resides, a Hispanic Serving Institution and an (IC CAE) legacy school. The UTSA School of Data Science was the perfect backdrop for IC CAE PIs, ODNI leaders and supporters, and partners to gather at this year’s summit and to collaborate, advance, and engage. The IC CAE Program focuses its outreach to minority-serving institutions with many of its students identifying as a minority and also first-generation college attendees/graduates. Many IC CAE institutions are also geographically rural and leverages the IC CAE Program to provide students an opportunity to study national security issues when they otherwise might not have been exposed.

Kisha Winston, IC Human Capital, welcomed PI Development Summit attendees and implored them to use the summit to highlight their program achievements and their students’ successes, and to share creative and inspiring ways to create engaging programs that inspire students to pursue intelligence careers. The PIs and program managers kicked-off by doing just that - bragging about their students and their accomplishments, and giving an overview of the national security programs they teach to students as part of their IC CAE grant awards.

Kisha Winston, IC Human Capital

ODNI senior leaders spoke throughout the summit, reinforcing the importance of the IC CAE program and providing real-world examples of the value in choosing a national security career. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Christy Abizaid and National Counterintelligence and Security Center Executive Director Mirriam-Grace MacIntyre spoke to the PIs and scholars, highlighting their respective Centers’ mission areas and illustrating the breadth of opportunity, just within ODNI, an IC officer can have.

“The global [counterintelligence] threat trends we see impact the academic community and underscore the importance of partnerships between the IC and academia for our collective defense,” said MacIntyre, speaking to the room full of academia leaders, educators, and IC CAE program managers. “CI is a growth business - it’s important students understand this discipline to help meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Later, Abizaid during her fireside chat talked to the attending IC CAE scholars about the many compelling reasons to join NCTC. “If you want to be an intelligence professional, [at NCTC], you get to learn about the IC, understand the roles the different agencies play, and see how intelligence can have a direct impact on a daily basis,” said Abizaid. “All of that is unique in the National Counterterrorism Center.”

ODNI senior leaders Dr. John Ballard, president of the National Intelligence University and Don Gentile, IC senior language authority, reinforced the IC priority to not only seek students with diverse backgrounds and skillsets, but also to provide programs that support the continuous development of those IC officers, throughout their career.

“We’re no longer in the business of being knowledgeable,” said Ballard. “It’s about developing the thinking, integrating innovators and decision-makers, and getting an ‘intellectual refresh’ every couple of years.”

Gentile talked about the power of a diverse workforce, the art and science of intelligence, and the importance of foreign linguists to the success of the IC mission. “Almost everything we collect is in a foreign language,” said Gentile. “Ultimately the number one, top priority is to provide intelligence information to our policymakers, our decision-makers, and you can’t do that unless you make sure that information is being processed, exactly, at the first level.”

Stephanie La Rue, IC Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility Chief

IC Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility Chief Stephanie La Rue underscored the value of diversity, sharing a personal story of her path to public service, and a memorable start to her IC career that was a catalyst to where she is today. “Despite the difficulty and loneliness I experienced when I first joined the IC, existing in spaces that historically and systemically exclude people like me, I kept showing up and I will keep showing up every single day,” said La Rue to the leaders, educators, and PIs of IC CAE schools. “You are responsible for the next generation who will challenge society with their mere presence in spaces, including in national security. You are a critical step along the journey to secure the wellbeing of many generations to come.”

The summit included mentoring sessions, panel discussions, and a presentation on Artificial Intelligence from IC CAE scholars – and ended with a career fair, a final opportunity for IC CAE scholars, PIs, recruiters, educators, program managers, and IC senior leaders to engage with each other, learn more about IC organizations, and plan for near or longer-term future collaboration opportunities.

“We truly appreciate your partnership and insightfulness,” said Winston. “You, as leaders, have the vision, knowledge, resources, and the experience to help create engaging programs that inspire students to pursue intelligence careers.”

To learn more about IC CAE Program and its grant receiving and legacy institutions, visit the IC CAE website.