Category Archives: Professional Development

Global Intelligence Forum – Wrap Up

This professional development post comes from Luke, MPP post grad 2014.

Here are my insights from attending Mercyhurst University’s Global Intelligence Forum in Dungarvan, Ireland from July 7-10, 2013:

During the panel on National Security Intelligence, Richard Kerr’s presentation resonated with me the most.  Kerr, a former Deputy Director of the CIA, opened with an anecdote from his career.  He joined the agency out of college without analytic training or a great understanding of exactly what intelligence analysis was all about.  He attributed his rise from a lowly GS-7 analyst to deputy director to hard work and skill … and a little bit of luck.  Sometimes a story like that is good motivation.

20130708_112908 (Richard Kerr, former Deputy Director of the CIA)

He spoke about a range of issues, including the need for in-depth analysis and leadership advice for managers of analysts.  A problem prior to the Iraq War was a shift to current intelligence (short-turnaround reports) and away from in-depth and rigorous intelligence.  A deep understanding of foreign countries (cultures, languages, history, etc) is absolutely necessary for policymakers dealing with international issues.  On the leadership issue, Kerr said that managers need to focus on two-way communication with analysts, and they should make sure analysts have ownership of and get credit for their work.

During a break I introduced myself to Mr. Kerr and broke the ice by mentioning a mutual friend.  I’m sure he wondered who the two of us could possibly both know, but he was pleasantly surprised when I mentioned Batten Professor Fred Hitz, a former inspector general at the CIA.

During the panel on Law Enforcement Intelligence, each of the panelists and keynote speaker Louis Freeh seemed to have a nugget of good advice.  Freeh acknowledged that analysts may face pressure to skew their analysis or investigations.  In such cases he suggested that analysts deliver their findings in written products to ensure a record of their work.  Don’t rely on oral briefs for difficult or controversial analysis, as they allow for poor memories, confusion, and ambiguity – whether intentional or not – to be issues .  John Grieve, a former director of intelligence at Scotland Yard, reiterated Freeh’s point with a poem,

“Say it loud and write it down,
good investigators speak without a sound.”

20130708_101020 (Louis Freeh, former Director of the FBI)

Another takeaway that transfers well from the law enforcement realm to the public policy realm came from a deputy commissioner of Ireland’s national police, Garda.  He said that one of the biggest problems of policing is in the implementation stage.  Great analysis is often wasted if the implementation of a policing policy fails.  He recommended that analysts must be involved in implementation due to their depth of knowledge of the subject matter.

In opening the Business Intelligence portion of the conference, Secretary-General Robert Watt of Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform  gave the most Batten-appropriate speech of the conference.  [Quick background: Ireland’s economy thrived before 2008, but the state’s fate turned quickly.  Evidence of the quick shift are all of the half-completed construction projects around Dublin.  The final toll was 20% decrease in GDP and 300,000 jobs lost.]  Watt’s challenge is to reform public spending to put the nation back on track to a stable economy, including a reorganization of the public sector and banking industry.

Ireland has a new program to review social welfare recipients to detect fraud.  A random sample of recipients is chosen and their characteristics (age, income, education, etc) are compared against a baseline of what a typical welfare recipient looks like.  If a variable differs greatly from the baseline, then an investigation takes places to determine if there is fraud.  This program detects 50% more fraud than traditional investigations at a lower cost.  I’m not sure if I would completely understand the complex regression used by the department, but I did understand Mr. Watt’s explanation thanks to the first year at Batten.

Another change was with the Irish government’s procurement process.  Agencies used to deal with procurement on individual basis, but they found that different organizations were buying the same goods from the same suppliers at very different prices.  Part of the reform program includes using the government’s monopsony power on some goods and services to save $500 million by 2015.

A final noteworthy change is a government-wide HR program for all 35,000 civil servants.  The government can now easily get a big picture look at the workforce at any one time.  In a week when the weather was beautiful, Mr. Watt wondered if vacation days increased or if sick leave was heavily used.  This information will be valuable for staffing and understanding how benefits are used.


There are a few final takeaways that didn’t fit nicely into this post, but are worth sharing.

  • Know the decisionmaker and how to communicate with him/her.  Brevity and crispness are key to having a report read and acted upon.
  • Intelligence is information designed for action.  The same definition could be used for policy analysis.  When writing papers next year, I will remember to produce actionable analysis by reducing uncertainty about a given situation.
  • Analysts must consider what value they are adding beyond just reporting the news or summarizing other analysis.  Good analysis presents insight and opportunities.
  • Decisionmakers should look for critical thinking, not consensus, in analysis.
  • In a conversation with members of European militaries, I learned about the complexity of multi-lateral cooperation in the European Union.  Professor Christine Mahoney‘s Political Institutions course gave me enough background to not make a fool of myself discussion the EU.  I thought the US government was big and confusing, but I learned that EU is a whole other beast.  Over 80 organizations deal with security and intelligence issues issues among EU member states, compared to about 16 in the US.
  • Games are valuable teaching resources.  Kris Wheaton, a Mercyhurst intel professor, has 10 years of data (client feedback from student projects) supporting the use of games and other innovative teaching methods in undergrad and graduate classrooms instead of dry, traditional lectures.
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia was well-represented at the forum.  The attendees included at least two UVA grads,  a JMU professor, and GMU researcher.  I spoke with the conference organizer who happens to be a family friend of one of my Batten classmates.  So I heard some good stories that I can share in the fall.  (See ya soon Ryan!)

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Global Intelligence Forum

This professional development post comes from Luke, MPP post grad 2014.

To complement academics, Batten puts an emphasis on professional development.  Due to my interest in national security and intelligence policy fields, I choose to travel to Dungarvan, Ireland for a mid-internship break to attend the Global Intelligence Forum.  The conference, titled Preparing Intelligence Analysts for the 21st Century, will focus on emerging trends and best practices in analysis needed to deal with the issues of the nearfuture.  It is hosted by Mercyhurst University’s Institute for Intelligence Studies, which is the oldest non-government intelligence training program in the country.  The keynote speakers are Louis Freeh (former FBI director), Rob Wainwright (director of Europol), and Robert Watt (secretary general of Ireland’s department of public expenditure).  The panels will cover the three broad intelligence fields – national security, law enforcement, and business – plus intelligence technologies and intelligence research methods.

Before coming to Dungarvan yesterday, my wife and I spent a couple days sightseeing in and around Dublin.  Our favorite spot was the Wicklow Mountains, with the Guinness Brewery a close second.

Wicklow Mountains - July 2013

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10th Annual Unite for Site Global Health Innovations Conference

Seeing entrepreneurs, activists, and enthusiasts descend upon Yale’s distinguished campus would seem like just another day on campus, but this is a bit different. The 10th Annual Unite for Site Global Health Innovations Conference ran from Saturday to Sunday of this past weekend and of course Batten could not be left out! This conference is entirely about policy from EVERYWHERE. Speakers from Ghana, India, Uganda, South Africa, Peru, Kosovo, Congo and more joined the overflowing auditoriums of do-gooders.

The conference kicked off with a speech by New York Times journalist, Tina Rosenberg, on harnessing the power of peer pressure: a topic that has been covered extensively by Batten psychology faculty. After beginning with references to alcoholism and drinking, Rosenberg asked the audience “which parents in the audience have told their children peer pressure is good. One could have heard a pin drop save a chuckle from the upper balcony, but it is what leaders want — to motivate people to action. Rosenberg advised the auditorium of global public health, medical professionals, and students to “abandon their public health expertise,” but clarified quickly before the coup could ensue defending the professions of all in attendance. Abandoning the expertise learned in school is not about forgetting the knowledge; it is striving to remember what motivates a non-expert in strategy development.

Peers are more credible. While experts are motivated by dire circumstances, enormous problems, and information, the average person blocks their discomfort out. To break through negative behaviors, research shows that marginalizing the bad behavior does more to incentivize good behavior that any public health message about a wide-spread problem. People want to fit in, so to change behavior is to credibly change perceptions of a norm.

The rest of the day was a fascinating version of just that. Any skeptic in the room would have been a minority among passionate optimist will logically framed arguments and innovators making pitches for the next big health advance.  In the end, the most important advice to policy makers and public health program coordinators boiled down to the following:

  •         Collaborate with stakeholders, don’t “help” them.
  •         Always ask why, not just for numbers.
  •         Understand history and context before implementation.
  •         Involve local peers in project design and marketing.
  •         Don’t claim causality lightly.
  •         Service should drive research. Ethical arguments exist for completing research and for not conducting it.
  •          Never promise the moon.
  •          Programs are always imperfect, but improvable (if evaluated).

– Post by Kate Stanley, MPP ’13

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StartingBloc’s Institute for Social Innovation – LA’13

What happens when you get 100 social entrepreneurs in a room together? You get an overwhelming sense of optimism and idealism, and you get a glimpse into a world where the most innovative and creative ideas rise to the top to solve some of the world’s most pressing social problems. A Santa Monica beach house overlooking the Pacific Ocean set the stage for this year’s StartingBloc Insititute for SocialInnovation, a five day-long fellowship program that seeks to empower individuals from various academic and professional backgrounds that are at different stages of developing and implementing their own projects. The Institute also featured a group case competition tackling this year’s theme: healthy neighborhoods. The best case solutions were presented to a panel of entrepreneur judges active in the Los Angeles area, including Robert Egger (founder and president of LA Kitchen and DC Central Kitchen).


I went to this year’s Institute equipped with two ideas:

1. A potential way to introduce more of a culture of innovation into federal, state, and local governments that are often too rigid and inflexible in devising programs to effectively address social problems in an inexpensive way, and

2. An ongoing project of mine (called Develop U) that aims at providing education, technology skills, and computer access to help people start their own businesses through sites like eBay. In my previous community development work, I found that many people within at-risk populations have problems developing and reinventing themselves to match trends and opportunities that are prevalent in this digital age. What many of us, including me, take for granted here at the University of Virginia are sometimes the simplest things. Lack of basic computer literacy prevents people from ever finding decent work. This isn’t only an international phenomenon, but a reality experienced everyday in some of America’s poorest neighborhoods in cities like Dallas, where I lived prior to coming to Virginia. The Institute allowed me yet another opportunity to pitch my ideas on community development and get feedback from passionate people that were more motivated than I ever was.


While the Institute programs and sessions were all great, I really do believe that the value of this program was embodied through the people that I met. This is glimpse of what I learned from them:

– You can do good and do well. Socially conscious work can be done while not being poor and hungry.

– Non-profits have an immense amount of political clout and influence that, when organized and tapped, can be a powerful force for driving social change.

– Always design products and services with the end user in mind. This concept is embedded in the human-centered design process. Check out for more on this.

– Use existing resources and frameworks to develop good work that provides a social benefit. From an economic development perspective for example, think about the difference between Norway and Nigeria, and how these two countries have utilized national natural resources to develop themselves (also termed the Norway-Nigeria moment).

– Crush fear and start something. Imagine. Innovate. Create. It isn’t always the best ideas that are the most effective. Rather, it’s the ideas that actually get converted into a plan, and subsequently into action, that have an impact and that are remembered.

For more information on StartingBloc and their programs, check out They are now accepting applications for Fellows to attend their next institute in Detroit.

– Post by Imran Khan, MPP’13

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Panel Discussion: Why Do Leaders Act Unethically?

The inaugural panel discussion for the UVA Leadership Working Group brought two thought-provoking speakers to the Batten School to talk about ethics and leadership. The Batten School’s Professor Benjamin Converse moderated the discussion. The first speaker was one of UVA’s own R. Edward Freeman, an Olsson Professor of Business Administration in the Darden School of Business. The second speaker was Max H. Bazerman, a Straus Professor of Business Administration in the Harvard Business School. Both speakers brought a different perspective of ethics – philosophical and psychological.

Professor Freeman questioned what defines the ethics we as individuals hold. For many, our philosophical beliefs shape how we define ethical behavior. He continued by pointing to the fact the ethics than an individual follows may allow him to sleep at night may indeed cause the rest of us nightmares. It is through these different lenses of ethical views that we judge leaders. However, we need to realize that many individuals can become enmeshed in situations that do not allow for ethical decisions. Therefore, the situation plays a greater role in ethical behavior than we ascribe to it.

Professor Bazerman brought us the ethics of leadership from the psychological standpoint discussed in Blind Spot: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It, a book he co-authored with Ann E. Tenbrunsel. Bazerman agreed with Freeman that many people would characterize themselves as ethical. However, this characterization breaks down when individuals make decisions for “the business.” He called this ethical fading. Bazerman gave three organizational examples of how the strong desire to maintain the status quo can lead to initiatives that encourage unethical behavior through inaction. He believes that the field of psychology can be used to help shortcut the need to accept the status quo.

– Post by Ammy George, MPP’13

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UVA Investing Conference

The Batten Council generously sponsored my attendance at the 5th annual University of Virginia Investing Conference at the Darden School of Business on November 15th and 16th. The theme of this year’s conference was “After the Election: Realities, Opportunities, and Challenges for Investors.” Specific topics included the fiscal and monetary policies, the U.S. “fiscal cliff,” the state of the global economy, emerging markets, energy, and healthcare.

Speakers at the conference came from all sectors of the economy: investors in the private, educators and researchers from academia and non-profit think tanks, and policymakers and regulators. The conference provided a nonjudgmental platform for the diverse selection of speakers to express their opinions candidly on the current state, trends, and future outlook of both the domestic and global economy. Some speakers focused their opinions of the U.S. regulatory environment, while others offered their forecasts of the trends of the global economy. This ultimately benefited the attendees, including professors, investors, and students, at the conference because they were exposed to a wide variety of perspectives on the economic and policy arenas.

As a public policy student with a business background as well, it was a very interesting and enlightening experience to attend the conference. There is clearly a discernible tension between governmental regulations and financial investors in the free market. With this observation, I would like to share a few key takeaways from the conference:

1) Regulation is not necessarily a bad thing: as long as it is easily accessible to the target sectors, stakeholders may not be as opposed to it

2) Natural resources prices will continue to rise as they become scarcer due to population pressures; this will require more investment in exploration and lead to more global conflicts

3) Uncertainty in public policy will always be a risk for investors

– Blog Post by Katy Lai, MPP ‘13

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Batten Fall 2012 Internship Fair

The first internship fair hosted by the Batten School took place last Friday in Garrett Hall. This was a great opportunity for incoming MPP first year and undergraduate students to mingle and learn about past experiences (and hardships) of the internship hunting process from the current second year MPPs. Talking to the first years reminded me of how demanding the entire process was last year. The uncertainty and competitive nature of internship applications make the entire process even more stressful.

As I was sharing my experience with people who stopped at my “booth,” I could not help but reflect on my summer internship experience with the World Wildlife Fund’s Corporate Relations department. I miss working and the luxury of leaving work and having the time to do things that I enjoy – cooking dinner, going to the occasional happy hour after work with the Batten crew in D.C., watching TV, playing ultimate Frisbee games with the summer recreational league that I joined, or simply strolling the city.

Working at WWF in Washington, D.C., was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Being a “Panda” over the summer further confirmed my interest in working with businesses on sustainability. My coworkers and the executives I was able to meet really inspired me to continue to develop my career in environmental policy and corporate sustainability. I could not have asked for a better summer internship experience, and best of luck to all the first year MPPs in finding an internship that they will love, enjoy, and learn from!

– Post by Katy Lai, MPP’13

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