As I cleared the final security checkpoint into what is best described as a modern fortress, I let out a breath I wasn’t aware I was holding. The Phoenix Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is an impressive sight, every bit as daunting and solemn as its media equivalents. I collected my badge, forfeited my phone, and took my seat among an impressive roster of classmates, waiting patiently for the Special Agent in Charge to take the podium…
Contrary to the perpetually popular ‘G-Man’ stereotypes of the silver screen, the FBI is committed to fostering greater understanding and transparency with the public through a ten-week Citizen’s Academy for established business, community, civic, and religious leaders. This ‘influencer’ model is designed to disseminate the most important aspects of the FBI’s mission to the greater community, with a focus on jurisdiction, structure, and an in-depth look into forensics, cyber-security, training, civil rights, drug/gang enforcement, public corruption, intelligence collection, field agents, and much more. The course culminates in a day at the Bureau’s local training range to highlight snipers, repelling, evidence collection, and SWAT activities. We were even permitted to fire part of the FBI’s weapons arsenal.
In completing the Citizen’s Academy, I gained a renewed respect for the Bureau and the incredible burden they bear on behalf of the United States. Beyond the fascinating content, perhaps the most valuable aspect was the direct exposure to the flesh and blood behind each division. In just ten weeks, the FBI Phoenix Division successfully communicated their elaborately interwoven web of responsibilities, including the constant barrage of threats and the largely unsung preventative actions keeping this country, and all who reside within it, safe. It’s far from an easy job.
My interest in this opportunity was ignited by two mentors, Hank Marshall and Cassandra Mason-Motz, as well as through my professional role at the City of Phoenix’s International Relations Division and Phoenix Sister Cities. In knowing my interests and educational background, they encouraged me to apply and provided the coveted alumni recommendations. Much like Thunderbird’s alumni network, to graduate from the FBI Citizen’s Academy is a source of competitive advantage. The circle is relatively small and the alumni opportunities, including a trip to Quantico, incredible and ongoing. While motivations to participate vary, the composition of the cohort was diverse in terms of industry and origin, contributing to the caliber of the overall experience and prospects beyond.
This experience remains a highlight of my 2017 spring semester. Although, it took a special kind of time management to enable this prospect (I am not only in the full-time MAGAM program, but a full-time employee at Phoenix Sister Cities, current Thunderbird Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations fellow, and active Valley Young Professionals board member), it was more than worth the sacrificed time and energy. I gained useful insight and a high-quality network to leverage beyond Thunderbird. I look forward to bridging the gap between the Bureau and the communities they selflessly serve.
To learn more, please visit: https://fbipcaaa.org/the-academy/. Applications are due by October 31 and require a personalized recommendation from an FBI agent or program alumni.