More than 25 Virginia Tech undergraduates presented research as part of the annual Science Applications International Corp.'s National Security Education Program Colloquium held by the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology

Students interacted with members of the intelligence community and industry partners, sharing their research and learning about opportunities for careers in national security at the event at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center.  

“The Hume Center’s primary mission is to develop the next generation of leaders for the national security community,” said Hume Center Director Charles Clancy. “Our annual colloquium highlights the achievements of our students and helps them make connections with future government and industry employers.”   

The students participate in the center’s Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence Scholars program, which helps undergraduates develop the skills and connections needed to work in the national security community. 

Research projects explored events currently unfolding around the world: Iran’s nuclear program, the consequences of intervention in Iraq, ISIS’ use of social media, and insurgency in Yemen. 

All of the topics are of great interest to the national security community — and sometimes even directly inspired by them. For example, one project investigating whether the United States should sell certain weapons to Vietnam grew out of a water-cooler conversation during a student’s summer internship at the Department of Homeland Security.

Studying  modern-day intelligence issues presents challenges that aren’t lost on the student researchers. One student described changing her poster the morning of the colloquium because new information became available. But she also described the satisfaction of hearing how breaking news had confirmed her analysis.  

The Hume Center’s education, research, and outreach activities address the communication and computation challenges of the national security community, and prepare Virginia Tech’s students to be the next generation of leaders in that community. 

The center’s primary educational initiative is its SAIC National Security Education program, supported by a gift from industry partner SAIC. The initiative provides curricular and  extracurricular opportunities to help educate students interested in national security — as well as practical help finding internships and crafting resumes. 

Jade Alston, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences who presented a poster at the colloquium, said her double major in political science and philosophy informed her research project on the ethics of foreign intervention. She was originally pointed to the Hume Center by her advisor. 

“The opportunities that they provide us with, like having people from multiple agencies come in, have really helped me sort through the things that I may want to do in the future,” Alston said. “I can’t really express how valuable that is to me.” 

Alston and the other students at the poster session are part of the Hume Center’s Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence program, developed in 2005 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to give undergraduates at select universities skills to meet the intelligence community’s need for talented personnel. 

Virginia Tech was selected to be a member of the competitive program in 2009.

Kira Gantt, the Hume Center’s associate director for education and outreach and director of the Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence  program, said that Virginia Tech’s longstanding relationships with the military and national security communities make its program especially strong. 

But even more important, she said, is that the students involved in the program embody the university’s motto, Ut prosim. “They really want to serve,” she said. 

The Hume Center is administratively organized under the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, with operations on the Blacksburg campus and at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, part of the National Capital Region