CIA holds competition at College

    The College of William and Mary and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency conducted a crisis simulation competition Feb. 7, involving intelligence personnel and students from throughout the commonwealth of Virginia.

    Meeting in the Sherman and Gloria H. Cohen Career Center and the Sadler Center, CIA personnel and students from the College, Norfolk State University, Sweet Briar College, the University of Mary Washington, the University of Richmond, Washington College, Old Dominion University and Virginia Tech came together to discuss CIA-authored scenarios in a think tank setting. According to government professor Dennis Smith, the meeting at the College was a unique conference.

    “Usually the CIA will do a simulation two or three times a year with just a single school,” Smith said in a press release. “We proposed to them a competition-type simulation involving multiple schools. It was kind of like a Model UN for the intelligence community. They loved the idea and brought us a new scenario.”

    Smith and government professor Amy Oakes serve as the directors of the College’s Project on International Peace and Security, which seeks outstanding students in the College’s government, public policy and international relations programs. For the conference, participants were divided into five-person teams, each of which was led by a CIA-affiliated mentor. Each team received raw intelligence concerning a fictional but plausible international incident and was then allotted three hours to address the information and prepare a brief outlining the situation and proposing a course of action for the U.S. government to take.

    “The mentor did not lead,” Smith said. “The mentor was there to observe and provide suggestions.”
    Representatives on the College team included Emily Pehrsson ’13, Julia Zamecnik ’11, William Shimer ’13, Lindsay Hundley ’12 and Katie Mitchell ’13.

    At the conclusion of the three-hour period, CIA analysts looked over the briefs of each of the eight participating teams. The two best teams went on to compete in a head-to-head competition before a panel of CIA analysts. The panel chose the team from Norfolk State University as that with the best brief.

    Smith said that the competition was not just a game, but he also said that it served more than professional interests.

    “It wasn’t designed as a recruiting event,” Smith said. “It was designed to be an educational event. It was designed to teach analytical skills and the importance of knowing how to deliver a brief. I talked to students from all the schools. They all said that it was the most intense experience that they’ve ever had. One student told me that he felt like his brain was going to explode with all the facts he had to juggle in his head.”

    Editor’s note: The article originally listed one of the schools involved in the competition as Sweetbriar College. This has been corrected to Sweet Briar College.


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