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With their acceptance into a prestigious national security program, two Washington College math and computer science students have opened a remarkable door into their post-graduate careers.
Two Washington College math and computer science students have been accepted this year to the prestigious National Security Scholars Program, which awards participants with paid internships in top defense and intelligence companies, as well as scholarships toward their undergraduate education.
Perhaps even more valuable than the internships and scholarships, say Jacquelyn Creitz ’17 and Monica Linnell ’17, is the National Security Agency security clearance they have earned—through a process that requires months of interviews, paperwork, and screening—as well as the networking opportunities and potential for immediate post-graduate employment.
“Chances are very good you’ll be offered a job when you finish college,” says Linnell, who is interning this summer as a software developer at Lockheed Martin. “They’ve invested a lot of time and energy in helping you get your security clearance and keeping you there. And when you have a security clearance, you have many more options in terms of a job.”
Creitz, who is working in the cyber internship program at Booz Allen Hamilton, also received a $10,000 scholarship toward her tuition, while Linnell earned a $6,000 scholarship. The scholarships are made available through the I-Fund—Independent College Fund of Maryland—of which Washington College is a participating school.
Linnell and Creitz are “two of our brightest,” says Austin Lobo, chair of the Department of Math and Computer Science. To qualify for the NSSP, he says, “They have to be good across the board, it’s not just depth in one area. They have to be able to look at a problem and understand it and see it from many angles and find a way to solve it. Both of them are very good with programming and databases. They pick things up very quickly and they are able to express their ideas, engage with competing ideas or counter-ideas, and they are able to make persuasive arguments why what they are doing is right.”
Neither can be terribly specific about what their internships entail. But both say the experience is taking them to a new level in their education, and verifying for them that what they’re learning at Washington College—and how they’re learning it—is preparing them thoroughly for a career in these industries.
“A lot of what I’m doing [at Booz Allen], you really have to think on your own, but also as a team and be able to receive critique and praise,” says Creitz. “I am a quiet person. I had Dr. Lobo’s class in the spring, and he made us get up and present problems in front of the class, and I think it’s an excellent tool. It makes us more competitive in our classes, and it made me more confident in myself when I went through this long process” of applying for the NSSP.
Linnell says she’s enjoying seeing how her education applies beyond the campus. “I understand now how actually being in computer programming in the real world works, which is a big deal,” she says. “And, you learn a lot about how the intelligence community works, which is cool.”
Linnell, who transferred to Washington College as a sophomore after spending a year at Anne Arundel Community College, is a member of the Improv Club and treasurer of the Interactive Gaming Society. Creitz is treasurer of the Math Club, as well as member of the College’s women’s rowing and swimming teams.
Linnell says she learned about the program when Lobo suggested she attend an information session on it; Creitz says Jim Allison, director of the Center for Career Development, pointed her to it. Linnell says the Writing Center at the College helped her with her essay, while the Center for Career Development helped her with her résumé. In both cases, Andrea Lange, assistant dean for Academic Initiatives, worked hard behind the scenes to facilitate the lengthy application process.
Lobo says that former students who were accepted to the NSSP have gone on to careers with Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Leidos, among others.