The intelligence analysts
State agency finds excellent prospects in CCU’s intelligence studies program
A growing state agency has discovered that CCU’s Intelligence and Security Studies program produces highly qualified students who are ready to jump directly into operations within an intelligence agency. Now that state agency is interested in an expanded relationship with CCU’s program.
Having hired four CCU alumni for full-time positions, the intelligence branch of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) established an internship program in summer 2021 that brought five CCU students to its agency. The success of the program prompted agency leaders to seek a closer connection with the Intel program, including an upcoming visit to campus, internship opportunities in 2022 and beyond, and potential full-time positions for successful interns.
“CCU’s program is phenomenal,” says Christopher Voll, deputy director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections and head of its Office of Investigations and Intelligence. “Traditionally, we took individuals into SCDC and trained them to be analysts. With [CCU] students and alumni, we teach them our internal database and our mission, but we don’t have to start from scratch.”
Joseph Fitsanakis, professor in the Department of Intelligence and Security Studies – which became an independent department within the Edwards College in fall 2021 – created this pipeline between the program and SCDC. He visited the Office of Investigations and Intelligence in early 2021 and made recommendations for students to fill the summer internship positions.
“[The SCDC receives] a lot of applications from all over the region, many from students with backgrounds in criminal justice and criminology, which is great, but it’s not intelligence,” says Fitsanakis. “And this is an intelligence unit. Our students speak the language of intelligence. And that is why the agency shows a tremendous amount of preference toward our students.”
Our students speak the language of intelligence.
The Citadel is the only other South Carolina university that offers a program specifically in intelligence studies.
“Intelligence is a very new field, especially in the non-federal aspects of security, that a lot of government officials are now becoming acquainted with,” says Fitsanakis.
The intelligence branch of the SCDC, which does intelligence analysis and criminal analysis, was established in 2017 and has grown from a five-person unit to a 30-person unit in four years.
“There is a lack of industry professionals who are also young,” says Fitsanakis. “Intelligence professionals want [hires] to be able to explore the online environment, which can revolutionize their operations. We are seeing this materialize in this particular agency.”
DT, a senior intelligence and security studies major with minors in computer science and applied mathematics (and whose name is being withheld for security reasons), was an intern at SCDC in summer 2021.
“I did signals intelligence work and link analysis to assist agents and analysts with cases,” says DT. “I had a class with Dr. [Richard] Kilroy [associate professor in the Department of Politics] called Structured Analytical Techniques, and I used a lot of those techniques in the job to make connections and make intelligence reports.”
Fitsanakis emphasizes that the selected students needed to be ready to perform from the start. “This is an immersive environment,” he says. “They place them right in the center of things from day one. These students are placed in a very high-pressure environment where time is of the essence. They have to very quickly learn and analyze a network of suspects and then make connections between them and let their supervisors know what actionable pieces of intelligence are there.”
DT was impressed with the quality of equipment in the office. “They had some of the best technology stuff there,” he says. “They do training for it, and with my background in computers, I picked it up quickly.”
Fitsanakis concurs. “Interns are trained in some very sensitive software and hard-to-find hardware that, to my knowledge, is used only in [federal agencies]. It’s a local agency, but the quality of their intelligence output is of a type I’ve never seen outside of DC.”
DT learned that developing a specialization within the field is a good idea. “In the office, everyone had their own thing they were interested in, like social media intelligence, or financial crimes, or gang activity,” DT says. “Finding a field that interests you within intelligence is important.”
In addition to getting them acclimated to an active agency environment, Voll also wants interns to learn the power of connecting with people. “One goal is to teach them how important networking is,” he said. “We take them to meetings with us where the attorney general, the solicitor, and leading intelligence professionals are present. They meet high profile people all over the state. We show them, this is what it really is.”
Voll and a group of colleagues, including two CCU alumni, will visit campus in October to speak to intelligence and security studies students about their agency and careers in the field. He hopes to expand the internship program significantly next summer, with valued guidance from Fitsanakis.
“Every single person [Fitsanakis] has sent our way is not only highly qualified but also has the desire to get out there and dig,” says Voll. “Being nosy, being inquisitive, asking questions – that’s showing drive in the intelligence field. They need to be sponges and absorb everything.”
DT advises any student offered the position to take it. “This is one of the few places you can find an internship where you’ll be doing the things you talk about in class,” he says. “In this place, you’re actually doing what you’ll be doing in a career.”
Fitsanakis looks forward to the upcoming visit, future internship opportunities, and continued partnership with SCDC.
What will the future hold for CCU intelligence majors and the SCDC?
“The sky’s the limit.”