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CCU Atheneum: Coastal Carolina University junior Shannon Brophy has earned a U.S. Foreign Service internship in Oman.
Coastal Carolina University junior Shannon Brophy has earned a U.S. Foreign Service internship in Oman.

CCU student’s passion for Arabic and Middle East leads to prestigious internship

by Sarah Mulready
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Through her early passion and perseverance for gymnastics, and later for gaining a deep understanding of Middle Eastern politics and the Arabic language, Coastal Carolina University junior Shannon Brophy has set herself apart and earned a U.S. Foreign Service internship in Oman.

Brophy, an intelligence and national security studies (INTEL) major and global studies minor, was one of nearly 70 students across the United States and the first from CCU to land a U.S. Foreign Service internship, a highly competitive program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. She will be interning in the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Muscat, Oman, from March through June 2019.

“The office is mainly responsible for protecting U.S. diplomatic facilities, personnel and information,” said Brophy. “This office is the U.S. embassy’s law enforcement liaison to the host country of Oman.” Brophy will be earning 12 credits for the internship and completing an online comparative politics course.

Brophy has been actively involved with the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB), a pre-professional, student-led organization within the INTEL major, since CCU’s organization kick-off day her freshman year. In fact, the CIB was one element that drew Brophy to CCU.

“It was a big deciding factor in my coming here because I loved the fact that they actually had a large club of people who were interested in the same stuff I was,” said Brophy.

Joseph Fitsanakis, associate professor in the Department of Politics and faculty adviser for the CIB, said Brophy’s academic career has prepared her for this experience.

“The expertise she gained in the CIB on the Middle East is something that she will now be able to take with her to her internship in Oman as she joins our embassy there this spring,” said Fitsanakis.

Born in Providence, R.I., and raised in Anderson, S.C., Brophy did not always know she wanted to enter the INTEL field; she originally wanted to become a physical therapist and work with athletes after being involved in gymnastics for many years. However, after multiple injuries and long recovery periods full of physical therapy, Brophy decided to shift her focus away from gymnastics.

“I started watching the news and got really into Middle Eastern politics, Arabic and the cultures,” said Brophy. This fueled her next endeavor to become an INTEL major and add a minor in global studies with an emphasis on the Middle East.

Fitsanakis said Brophy’s academic performance is a reflection of both personal and academic interests.

“The focus and self-control that she gained from her gymnastics background is evident in her attitude toward her studies and everything else that she does,” said Fitsanakis. “Shannon is one of the most energetic and high-powered students I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Her enthusiasm about learning, about her accomplishments, and about life in general, is infectious. Shannon is an extremely bright and talented young women who embodies some of the best values of Coastal and the INTEL program.”

Brophy has been actively involved with CIB since her freshman year, and she said it keeps her focused on her passion. The organization is comprised of eight desks, which represent different regions of the globe, and members meet regularly to provide updates on their regions; each academic year culminates in a publication and a professional presentation.

“The CIB pushes [students] to stay involved on what’s going on in the news,” Brophy said.

Brophy worked as an analyst for the Middle East desk, briefing her head of desk on topics, which were then presented to the whole organization. Now the roles have reversed, as Brophy has been the current head of desk for the Middle East since last year and an executive member of CIB.

“It’s been such a great experience helping everyone in my desk choose a topic and help them figure out how to analyze things and choose credible sources,” said Brophy.

Fitsanakis took note of with Brophy’s growth within the organization.

“Gradually, the CIB became a huge part of Shannon’s identity here at CCU,” said Fitsanakis. “She’s an irreplaceable executive member.”

Brophy has also embraced her interest for Arabic during her career at CCU.

“I’ve been studying Arabic for almost four years now,” she said. “It’s always been a huge passion of mine. As soon as I started taking Arabic languages course, I fell in love with the language.”

Brophy has completed two intensive immersion programs for Arabic, during which little or no English speaking was permitted, during her summer breaks from CCU. These experiences, along with the opportunities from CCU, have given Brophy the critical tools she needs as she embarks on a new adventure.

Suheir Daoud, associate professor in the Department of Politics with a specialty in Middle Eastern studies, has had Brophy as a student in upper-level politics classes.

“As a student and as a person, Shannon is an ideal candidate for this internship,” said Daoud. “She is a wonderful student, deeply enthusiastic and passionate about learning about the region. She also has strong critical thinking awareness in regard to stereotypes of the region and its people … Shannon worked hard for this honor, and she deserves it.”

As for the future, Brophy’s plans are no less ambitious.

“I have two separate goals in mind. One is that I take my Arabic and become a professor, or I could apply for agencies or the state department and get a job.” After graduating from CCU in 2020, Brophy has decided, “I’m going to apply to both jobs and graduate schools … and see what route it takes me.”

During Brophy’s internship, she will be keeping a blog maintained through the CCU’s Coastal Now website. Check back for updates and the progress of Brophy’s experience beginning in mid-March.

Note: Sara Sobota in the Edwards College for Humanities and Fine Arts contributed to this article.


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