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Mercyhurst students demonstrate passion for profession

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Intel students brief NGA Director Robert Cardillo.

By NGA Office of Corporate Communications & Mercyhurst University

A group of Mercyhurst University intelligence studies students briefed National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo on their senior-year analytic projects at the agency’s Springfield, Virginia, headquarters on Nov. 16.

Mercyhurst is an NGA academic partner, a relationship initiated in July 2013 with a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA. The CRADA partnership provides Mercyhurst’s geospatial students real-world experience in researching and briefing, and increases NGA’s technological and research collaborations.

The students, who are enrolled in the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies & Applied Sciences, briefed Cardillo and others among the agency’s senior leadership during their daily intelligence operations briefing. One team, consisting of Mercyhurst students Kevin Henry,  Nina Lindsey, Sarah Stirrup, Katie McCafferty and Ian Mills, addressed the potential impact that food and water scarcity in Southern Africa have on political stability in the region. The second team of Lauren Watson, Austin Kaminski, Joe Gargano and Chelsea Calabro examined strategic options that the current Chinese leadership may take concerning several territorial disputes, including the South China Sea, East China Sea and Sino-Indo border region. The Mercyhurst students were accompanied by intelligence studies assistant professor Steve Zidek.

“By tackling topics and questions posed by senior analysts, Mercyhurst's intelligence students not only demonstrated a competence in quickly learning the subject matter (less than 10 weeks), but also how to effectively apply analytic rigor in answering those complex questions,” Zidek said.

Cardillo and NGA Deputy Director Sue Gordon praised the students for their hard work and professional assessments.

“As exciting as the profession has been, tomorrow is even better,” said Cardillo. “We need talent and passion as we’ve seen this morning.”

Later that day, during the NGA and U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation Small Satellites conference in the agency’s William Allder auditorium, Cardillo referred to the students’ visit in response to a question about understanding the strategic, long-term picture for national security issues and what sources would be essential for future success.

 “[It’s a] crazy, talented world out there, and that’s the point,” said Cardillo. “Now we can have these conversations and engage these students and send them off into that open content sphere. What a wonderful return on investment.”