The Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism & Interdisciplinary Learning at SU

Hello, future Maxwellians! My name is Frankie Garrison and I am a Master Public Administration and Master of Arts in International Relations graduate candidate at the Maxwell school. While I am focusing my graduate studies on issues of international and national security here at Maxwell, and I am also working as a Graduate Assistant in INSCT, SU’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (pronounced: In-skit). Graduate assistantships are a form of financial scholarship, that combines a tuition credit, employment benefits, and a salary for work. At Maxwell they are offered as either 10 hours-a-week or 20 hours-a-week assistantships. A large number of people in the cohort each year are offered them, and people work for different faculty and departments across Maxwell.


INSCT is a collaborative interdisciplinary center shared between the Maxwell School and Syracuse University’s College of Law. INSCT is focused on the study of national and international security. Because of INSCT’s interdisciplinary nature, it is home to students and faculty from Maxwell, and the law school. INSCT also offers Certificates of Advanced Studies in Security Studies, National Security and Counterterrorism Law, and Post-conflict Reconstruction.

Certificates of Advanced Study (CAS) are essentially the graduate version of a minor. It is a way to demonstrate significant course work in a particular field or topic. When looking at graduate programs, I highly recommend exploring what different interdisciplinary centers universities have and if there are different opportunities for you to complete one of these certificates as a part of your main degree.



INSCT is one of the main reasons I chose to come to Maxwell, and interdisciplinary studies is an area that I think Syracuse University particularly excels in. When I started at Maxwell, I made a point of enrolling in INSCT’s advanced certificate in Security Studies, and because of my work it has become my work and study spot on campus. In INSCT, I work alongside several other graduate and research assistants, as well as other students from Maxwell and the law school. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to move beyond Maxwell and meet law students interested in issues of national and international security. As a policy person, the perspective of the law students on many different national and international security issues has been particularly interesting to me. In the Fall, as a part of my advanced certificate, I took a class titled “Central Challenges of National Security.” The class was half law students, and half Maxwell students. The mix of perspectives and expertise in the class created an incredibly interactive class environment where we were able to learn a great deal from one another.

I have found these kinds of interdisciplinary experiences to be incredibly valuable part of graduate school. When looking at graduate programs, I highly recommend that you look at what opportunities there are to take classes outside your program of admission and beyond your university’s walls. Here at Maxwell, many students take classes in the School of Business, the School of Education, the Law School, and within the many Maxwell departments, like Anthropology, Political Science, and Sociology. Networking with students and faculty outside of your program can be incredibly valuable. At most universities as a graduate student, there are often many options when it comes to crafting a customized education, and I highly recommend taking advantage of this.

If you happen to be interested in issues of national and international security, and the Maxwell School, I highly recommend taking visiting INSCT’s website,, or coming to visit if you are ever on campus.

Our Journey to the top

Since leaders set the agenda, they ultimately influence the organization’s culture and, in turn, its long-term effectiveness. Unfortunately, be it at the local community or international levels in politics, religion, business or humanitarian work, great leadership is hard to come by. The influence which leaders have on the performance of their teams can provide a basis for a fundamental shift in the culture and policies which govern their institutions. The World Food Programme (WFP) management practices during the decade of change under Catherine Bertini is clearly a textbook case of how to successfully breathe a new lease of life in the management of an organization, which has existed for decades.

Prof. Bertini finishing her class at the United Nations in New York with 26 Maxwell graduate students from 15 countries, pictured here at the General Assembly

What a person wears influences how people perceive that individual which ultimately affects how the person will be treated. In determining her dress code during her time in office during the decade of change, Bertini always endeavored to dress in a manner which was appropriate to the culture of the environments she went to during the call of duty. Most managers take this lightly and wonder what contributes to them not being properly received when they reach a new area. In management, you need to look the part at all times.

Before adequately addressing the systematic challenges to the operations of an institution, a leader must firstly endeavor to fully understand the nature and extent of the problems at hand. When Bertini took over the operations at WFP, she commissioned an audit of the financial operations and management systems, which revealed glaring irregularities that needed to be addressed urgently. This provided a solid platform upon which to get funding to address the challenges as WFP could provide detailed information on the nature and extent of the problems at hand to the donors. Related to this was her putting a person in charge of strictly overseeing the implementation of the solutions to the identified problems. Management training at all levels was also critical to the successful implementation of the solutions. This helps every member of the team to properly play their part in the overall meeting of the set goals during a given period.

The 2017 UN orgs – Managing for Change Maxwell School Class poses for a picture at the Fisher Centre with outgoing World Food Program Executive Director Ertharin Cousins and Prof. Bertini

Branding and communication is another area which was addressed and improved upon in a way which enhanced the visibility of WFP and the work which it was doing during the decade of change. Effective branding and communication work is at the heart of good public relations which can improve an organization’s capacity to attract funding, thereby serving more beneficiaries and advancing its mission. Another milestone during the decade of change was the creation of a mission statement. By that time, it became the second UN agency to have one. This was a master stroke. The mission statement sets the context within which the organization’s employees strive for excellence and work to achieve the set goals.

At the heart of this momentous period was the desire by Bertini to lead a united and cohesive team. According to her, power struggles have led to so many organizations flying way below their potential. Unlike other agencies, it is with this thinking in mind that in her new organizational structure, she only had room for one deputy. The decade of change of WFP does most certainly contain a lot of leadership nuggets worthy to be in a management textbook on the shelf of a manager who wants to provide real leadership which goes beyond ‘the business as usual approach.’ It is this this knowledge which Bertini shared with her class on the third day of the United Nations Orgs-Managing for Change Course at Syracuse University’s Fisher Centre right in the blissful heart of New York.

Maxwell School students might not have their path to the top paved with concrete bricks, but most certainly, like renowned Mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, their way to the top is made easier through being helped to see further by standing on the shoulders of academic giants who surround them in abundance in a wide array of fields.



No One is an Island

John Donne was a 17th century poet; Common is a 21st century poet. While the two were born centuries apart, their words bring clarity in a period of my life that is anything but.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” – John Donne, 1624, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.

“…I’m not always the perfect man. I’m not always doing the right things. That’s who I am. I’m working to be better.” – Common, 2007, The Guardian.

View of Maxwell from Crouse-Hinds Hall.
View of Maxwell from Crouse-Hinds Hall.

The second semester of graduate school is about my maturation from being curious about data science to being committed to becoming the best urban data scientist I can be. This commitment is not a movie montage moment where I surround myself with books and independently learn how to transition from a student to being an employee. Rather, this commitment involves asking for help from others and believing in myself.

In the spirit of Donne’s writings, I am a part of both the Maxwell School and School of Information Studies. When it comes to preparing for job interviews for policy jobs, no one is better at offering solid advice than the experienced and accommodating trio of Kelli Young, Laura McArdle, and Lauren Meyer at the Maxwell Center for Career Development. But when I need to learn how to showcase my visualization skills or highlight certain software skills on my resume, Christopher Perrello at iSchool Career Services is who I go to see.

Every Friday at the Center for Policy Research, my economics classmates and I go through the weekly problem sets with Professor Peter Wilcoxen. The enthusiasm he has for economics is clear; but to me, the best part is witnessing someone take as much time as is needed to simplify a complex concept. That patience and love of subject are a regular display of what I hope to accomplish in becoming an urban data scientist.

When I’m not getting help from professionals, I’m venting my frustrations with the job hunt with my fellow MPA and iSchool classmates. The best part of sharing my ups and downs with others is that everyone else has a similar story to tell. Reserving the “They want an interview!” or the “Why haven’t they called back?” story suppresses the chance for everyone to vent their experience on this rollercoaster ride.

No matter how high or how low the rollercoaster goes, I believe in myself. Every week I am challenging myself to make a new chart, interactive graphic, or communication skill. Today it is developing an application that visualizes monthly citizen complaints against City of Cincinnati police officers; tomorrow might be something completely different. While where I’ll end up after graduation is completely unknown, at least I have a community to rely on for support through the good times and the bad times.