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Mercyhurst intel students brief NGA on role of ethnicity in Syrian strife

Friday, May 9, 2014

Students of the Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Information Science at Mercyhurst University recently delivered a briefing to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on the interplay between Syria’s ethnic and religious structures and the civil war in that country.

The briefing stemmed from a strategic intelligence capstone course taught by Professor Steve Zidek of the university’s intelligence studies program. The student-analysts included Allison Zust, Matthew Mulford, Shaheen Merhej and Norman Evans. They visited the newly built NGA campus in Springfield, Va., April 28 to deliver their briefing.

The students offered “unique perspectives on the potential outcomes of a post-civil war Syria,” said Sean Chrisman, who worked as the Syria Issue Manager in NGA’s Syria Crisis Cell until recently. “Their work will give the Syria team some additional data points to consider.”

NGA has a five-year, unclassified cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, with Mercyhurst, which was accomplished through the efforts of Ridge School Dean James Breckenridge, Ph.D., and Professor Kristan Wheaton, J.D. The NGA has visited Mercyhurst four times previously for briefings.

The partnership began in July 2013 and involves multiple NGA directorates, including InnoVision, Analysis, Human Development, Office of Corporate Communications and the Office of General Counsel.

“This is exactly what our applied program strives to achieve; teach our students how to think about complicated issues, utilize analytic methods and tools to produce valuable analysis, and effectively deliver that critical information to a decision-maker,” Zidek said.

(NGA public release number 14-380)

PHOTO: Jacque Brewer, an analytic strategies program manager with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, provides a tour of the agency’s campus in Springfield, Va., to Mercyhurst students, from left, Allison Zust, Matthew Mulford, Shaheen Merhej and Norman Evans.