CIA Keeps an Eye on Waynesburg University Students in Recruitment Event

The government organization normally recruits at much larger institutions, but after two years of requests, is now taking the time to visit Waynesburg University's campus of nearly 1,800 students.

by Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / March 30, 2017 0
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(TNS) -- The career center director at Waynesburg University says she knows a bit less than she normally would about the job recruiters who are headed to her campus Thursday in rural Greene County.

Take, for instance, their identities.

“All I have are the first names,” Marie Coffman said. “I don’t know if they’ll have business cards.”

Not that she pressed them on that point. After all, the recruiters are from the Central Intelligence Agency, and it took almost two years to get the spy agency to agree to come to campus, where recruiters will spend a day with students enrolled there and at 11 other colleges that are bringing students to Waynesburg to ensure a critical mass of prospects.

The CIA recruits on campuses nationwide but typically at much larger universities. Waynesburg leaders therefore view it as a coup (relax, not that kind) to have the federal government’s best-known intelligence service scouting for talent there.

Officials of the private campus of nearly 1,800 students, founded by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, say they expect about 150 participants.

Of the 80 or so who submitted resumes in advance, the CIA as of this week had chosen for one-on-one advising sessions 37 students enrolled in such majors as forensic science, business information science, computer science, criminal justice, political science, forensic science and entrepreneurship, officials said.

Images of intrigue and espionage aside, Ms. Coffman said many jobs the agency likely will discuss are not about spying. That said, although Waynesburg put out a news release, there is secrecy surrounding the event, too.

A reporter’s request for an advance interview with a recruiter, submitted to the CIA through the university, not only was declined, it produced this reminder from the agency:

“Recruiters do not speak to any media … On that note — we will also not allow photography or any video or audio recording while we are on campus …”

The sessions themselves are closed to reporters.

Through the decades, CIA visits to some college campuses have evoked reactions from anger in times of covert scandals or war, to heightened career interest in other moments like the aftermath of the 9/?11 terrorist attacks.

More recently, fallout over Russian hacking and intelligence leaks has thrust the CIA and the intelligence community into the spotlight, from Edward Snowden to WikiLeaks. The CIA had no comment on how all that is affecting interest among career prospects, but some believe interest will grow regardless.

James Tanda sees it at Waynesburg, where he teaches criminal justice.

He said many intelligence jobs, including those to thwart cyberthreats, did not exist until recent decades but now are ingrained in foreign intelligence gathering and analysis of the type the CIA does, and in domestic law enforcement. All of it is driving demand, he said. Courses in homeland security and intelligence further stoke that interest on his campus.

“I think for every person who does not like what U.S. intelligence does, there are a whole lot of people who are equally drawn to it because they see the necessity, they see its importance,” said Mr. Tanda, a retired supervisory agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Although no one would say exactly why the CIA decided to come to Waynesburg, school officials cite their well-established criminal justice program and placement of a number of students in criminal law enforcement careers.

Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman, said the agency “is constantly seeking to recruit talented and dedicated officers, and every year, we visit colleges across the country to discuss the CIA’s mission and to share information on our career and internship programs.”

The agency looks for “critical thinking skills, teamwork, leadership, communication and accountability,” he said. He said the CIA also looks for a strong grade-point average and a college degree, which is required or preferred depending on the job. “Overseas travel and foreign language skills can also strengthen an application,” he added.

The day will begin with a 10 a.m. session for faculty and staff, followed by an 11 a.m. information session for students inside Miller Hall. Tables will then be set up for students to learn more about job and internship opportunities.

Ashley Guenther, 22, of Castle Shannon, a senior business information science major at Waynesburg, plans to inquire about a CIA position in information technology project management. She grew up with digital technology, and long wanted to make it more accessible to older adults but of late also sees career potential guarding against threats.

“I think information technology and security are going to be a huge thing of the future,” she said.

She called the events a must-not-miss event. “It’s not every day the CIA comes to Waynesburg,” she said.

Waynesburg said schools participating Thursday include Bethany College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Geneva College, Grove City College, Penn State Fayette, Saint Francis University, Saint Vincent College, Seton Hill University, Washington & Jefferson College, West Liberty University and Wheeling Jesuit University.

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