Washington College took home the top prize in the largest-ever Undergraduate Crisis Simulation organized by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) November 2012 at Georgetown University. The team of four Washington College students won the Maryland bracket and beat out other finalists William & Mary (Virginia bracket) and American University (D.C. bracket). A total of 12 schools competed.
The team from Washington College consisted of International Studies majors John Preston Hildebrand and Kathleen Pattie; Political Science major Kelsey Newborn; and Economics major Alex Anbarcioglu. Dr. Andrew Oros, Director of International Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science, recruited and advised the team. Also working with the students was a CIA mentor, an actual collection analyst at the Agency who was assigned to the Washington College team.
The four-student team, guided by their CIA mentor, had just two hours to sift through piles of information about an urgent development on the Korean peninsula and prepare a short memo and 10-minute oral briefing for the Director of the Agency, as played by a CIA staff member.
“Instead of being stressed, we were all running on adrenaline and excitement,” recalls Pattie. “We really benefited from our teamwork. Even though we had only just met the week prior, our ability to bond together, delegate tasks, and make seamless transitions along with quick decisions was a major asset.”
The top teams from each state division advanced to a final round, where they delivered a five-minute briefing to a panel of CIA staff members role-playing the Director of National Intelligence and other senior staff.
The CIA sees the Undergraduate Crisis Simulations as a way to showcase the kind of work its analysts perform and to encourage undergraduates to consider careers in intelligence analysis. If the Washington College team is any indication, the Agency achieved its goal.
“I had previously thought about a career in intelligence but had always associated it with movies and television depictions,” says Pattie. “By participating in the simulation I got a clear understanding of what the job entails and was not disappointed by the level of excitement. Now I have a more definitive idea of what the CIA contributes to the nation and am eager to learn more about possible careers there.”
The team’s success illustrated ways Washington College is meeting its goals, as well. “The entire experience proves that despite going to a small school, we are getting the same high level of education that students are getting at larger institutions,” notes Newborn.
“A huge part of our advantage was the analytic nature of WAC’s curriculum,” adds Anbarcioglu. “Rather than rote memorization, teachers prize lateral and creative thinking.”
Professor Oros agrees with his students’ assessments that the simulation underscores skills that many Washington College courses convey. “Our small class environment, which offers many opportunities for group collaboration and stresses communicating effectively in writing and speaking gave our students an advantage,” he remarks. “It’s gratifying for me as a professor to see employers stressing the importance of the same skills I stress in the classroom, and to see my students utilize those skills in action.”