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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Abigail McGowan

Want to learn about state secrets, nuclear proliferation, cyber security, and terrorism from people who have lived and worked internationally in the field?

Then you might want to follow in the footsteps of Abigail McGowan, an employee at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and the first Ohio State student accepted to the Cambridge Security Initiative’s International Security and Intelligence Programme and Conference, to take place July 9 through August 3, 2018.

During this four-week summer program, McGowan will enjoy a unique opportunity to work with leading practitioners and academics from the security and intelligence communities in the riverside setting of Magdalene College at University of Cambridge.

“I'm an international studies major with a specialization in relations and diplomacy, so I thought this was a unique opportunity to learn about another specialization within international studies, that of security and intelligence,” McGowan said.

Chaired by Sir Richard Dearlove, formerly head of MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, and convened by Michael Goodman and David Gioe, the International Security and Intelligence Programme will consider the claims of state secrecy, the threat of nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, terrorism, the problems generated by the demand for regional security, and the security challenges of revolutions and governing diversity.

“I've always been interested in covert operations, so the opportunity to learn about intelligence in an academic sense really appealed to me,” said McGowan, who will be supported by a Mershon Center study abroad scholarship.

Students will learn about the intelligence cycle, including the collection of intelligence, analysis of the product, and dissemination to customers. Counterintelligence and covert action play more opaque but still vital roles at the heart of the nation state. Understanding these perspectives, what intelligence can achieve, but also its limitations, are major themes of the program.

The University of Cambridge, now one of the highest ranked in the world, dates back to the early 13th century, and the earliest college foundations are clustered at the heart of the medieval city.

McGowan hopes her experience at the International Security and Intelligence Programme will inform an honors thesis she plans to write when she comes back. Beyond that, she plans to attend graduate school and aspires to work as a civil service officer for the U.S. State Department.

“I think it's important to have a wide range of knowledge in topics related to foreign affairs, and this program offers a special opportunity to broaden my perspective,” she said.