Director of Public Affairs,
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
“At ODNI, I am responsible for managing all US National Intelligence communication efforts and ensuring coordinated communication outreach on behalf of the 16 agencies and components that make up the Intelligence Community. I must also provide strategic counsel to the Director of National Intelligence on media matters and stakeholder outreach efforts. This requires being on top of world events, having a firm grasp of how our government really works, and knowing the intricacies of handling the domestic and foreign press. My journey here included working for an NGO (Meridian International Center), a national TV news network (ABC News), a major Washington, DC law firm (Patton Boggs), the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security.
It has been an incredible journey that started the very first day of Patterson School orientation. We did introductions and as each new student spoke about living, visiting, and studying in exotic foreign locales, I remember feeling a bit embarrassed. I did not have anything as remotely adventurous to share. I was a local Lexington kid whose international ‘exposure’ consisted of one short trip to a Mexican border town and regular visits to my mother’s old Ukrainian neighborhood in Chicago. I remember thinking, 'These guys are impressive. I want the cultural experiences they’re describing.' My first trip to Europe came the following summer.
Vince Davis and John Stempel took a chance admitting me into the program. I was not the best candidate, nor even a particularly impressive student. Frankly, Patterson was academically hard for me in many ways. But both men must have sensed that my enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity would help propel me forward. Truth be told, I felt like I had been given a great opportunity and now had something to prove, both to my classmates and myself. I took full advantage of the close relationships we were able to forge with one another and with our professors.
The Patterson School's small size let us to spend a great deal of time with faculty, both in and outside the classroom. I recall well Dr. Stempel's DIP 777 seminar which provided a forum to analyze the world problems that we saw on the nightly news. This was a turbulent period and there was plenty to discuss from the first Persian Gulf War to the rapid events leading to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He helped expand our worldview, emphasizing the importance of strategy and problem solving, and ultimately preparing us for careers in international relations. Even today, I apply many of the professional skills we learned here as part of my work within the intelligence community.
Douglas Boyd, then Dean of the School of Communications, was particularly helpful as I explored news media, propaganda and mass communications. He had spent years in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, researching state-controlled mass media and its impact on cultures in the region. Some of what we probed in his classes foreshadowed the impact that global satellite TV, the Internet and even social media would have on Arab and Islamic countries. Many of the changes we have seen in recent years including the Arab Spring, sectarian conflicts, and open warfare have their roots in the rapid spreading of information via new technologies that challenge existing government power structures. While we could not have predicted Twitter or Facebook back in the early 1990's, the concepts of how information technology could serve as a force for change was a central topic of discussion in Dr. Boyd's classes. No surprise that my interest increasingly focused on journalism and communications.
Five years later, l was at ABC News in New York working as a field producer for 20/20, alongside legendary broadcast journalists like Peter Jennings and Barbara Walters. At ABC, I helped cover major international stories from the bombing of the USS Cole, the September 11 attacks, and the Iraq War. These issues – war and peace, the Middle East, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction – and how to coordinate responses with the media are threads that stretch from the beginning of my Patterson School studies through every stage of my career.
My advice to current Patterson students – take full advantage of the opportunities the program offers. This will guarantee a solid foundation to pursue a professional career in a variety of international-related sectors. My Patterson experience helped set me on a path that has encompassed journalism, national security, and intelligence. Twenty years later, I remain motivated by the same desire to learn and engage that I had on that first day in orientation.”