December 01st, 2023

sccc ku partnership pictureLeslie VonHolten, education coordinator with the Kansas Consortium-Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence (ICCAE), explains the Intelligence and National Security Studies program to an SCCC student in a recent visit. Courtesy photo• Seward County Community College


The need to adapt, diversify and mature is an old and continual challenge — and it’s even more critical in a globalizing society fraught with conflict. In order to keep up, the intelligence community has turned to its partners in education. The search led to Seward County Community College, where incoming students can now get a head start on an intelligence career. 

SCCC’s newest course of study, offered in partnership with the University of Kansas, gives students an opportunity to earn a certificate in Intelligence and National Security Studies (INSS). It’s the first step towards a degree — and a career — that’s often depicted in “James Bond” or “Jack Ryan” movies, but has many other applications as well. The final destination may be the CIA or something less cinematic; either way, the journey can begin this fall, with the first class enrolling now at Seward.

Intelligence work isn’t limited to what people think of as being a spy, points out Luke Dowell, SCCC Dean of Instruction. Among other things, the intelligence community needs diversity in terms of skills.

“The goal of the program is to increase the diversity of people getting into the intelligence community and that not only means ethnic diversity but also diversity in their backgrounds and skills,” Dowell said. “They need a lot more diversity in a lot of areas. Not only are we encouraging students from different backgrounds to pursue intelligence careers, but this is for students that are majoring in something different like engineering, computer sciences and languages.”

And just what is the “intelligence community?” It is a group of 17 federal intelligence agencies responsible for supplying accurate and usable information to those who make national security decisions. The agencies deal with issues ranging from terrorist financing to drug trafficking, from climate change and environmental issues to foreign technology threats and nuclear proliferation.

The two most well-known agencies are the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The others include Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Department of Energy, the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Treasury, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the five military branches – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Whatever the focus, SCCC students are perfect for this type of work, said Leslie VonHolten, education coordinator with the Kansas Consortium-Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence (ICCAE).

 “The ICCAE program was developed to expand and diversify the intelligence workforce, and SCCC is an excellent partner in this regard,” VonHolten said. “Seward County has one of the highest foreign-born populations in the United States, so naturally SCCC has an ethnically diverse student population. Students from SCCC also represent what we call ‘geographic diversity,’ bringing vital perspective from an agricultural and industrial part of the country.”

Traditionally, the intelligence community has recruited from colleges along the East Coast, VonHolten noted, “but agencies are recognizing that in today’s global world, we need people from all types of backgrounds.”

In fact, VonHolten said, a CIA recruiter recently told her the most important attributes for new agents are curiosity, critical thinking skills, and strong writing skills.

“In the ICCAE, we can help you with critical thinking and writing,” she said. “What we need are curious students who are willing to work hard.”

As the intelligence community in the U.S. looks to the future, it’s opted to invest in developing intentional partnerships with colleges that can help fill the gaps in personnel with a wide array of recruits. KU, in partnership with SCCC, Dodge City Community College, and Donnelly College in Kansas City, applied to be an ICCAE and received a $1.5 million grant from the Defense Intelligence Agency. The grant was made possible through the DIA’s Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence program, which was established in 2005 to support the need for qualified intelligence professionals to carry out the United States’ national security initiatives.

As an ICCAE, the Kansas Consortium receives funding for curriculum development, faculty professional development, research, student study abroad, and colloquia/lectures. ICCAE students are eligible for intelligence-related conferences, workshops, simulations, professional networking opportunities, and assistance with job placement such as resume and job interview coaching.

“This is an innovative project for KU—in regard to developing an intelligence curriculum, and also in partnering so strongly with SCCC, DCCC, and Donnelly,” VonHolten said. “The first phase of the program starts this fall with the launch of our 12-hour Intelligence & National Security Studies undergraduate certificate. After that, we hope to expand to a minor in KU’s Political Science department, and eventually a Bachelor’s degree by the end of the grant in 2022.”

To complete their certificate in INSS, students will take four online classes through KU, while enrolled at SCCC. The four classes are: 

  • Introduction to Intelligence and Statecraft
  • US Intelligence Community
  • Intelligence Analytics
  • Counterintelligence.

The first class offered at SCCC will be “Intro to Intelligence,” with enrollment open now for the fall 2018 semester. 

“(The class) is an introduction to the intelligence community,” Dowell said. “It gives them an overview of what they do, understanding all the different aspects of it.”

A major benefit to completing the certificate is that students are eligible for opportunities that would be significant in their future career goals.

“At the Kansas Consortium level, students will receive mentoring and extracurricular activities that will connect them to professionals working in the intelligence community,” VonHolten said. “We also have scholarship, research, and study abroad funding. At the national level, they will be eligible for internships and summer seminars in Washington, DC. We are also developing internship opportunities with other security agencies, such as NORTHCOM in Colorado and EUCOM in Germany. These experiences—plus the resume and mock interview opportunities at KU—will give ICCAE students a competitive edge when they enter the workforce.”

For more information about this new program at SCCC, contact Luke Dowell at (620) 417-1500.