National Intelligence University Serves as a Hub for Intelligence and National Security Studies
Photos and Article by: Jessica Hrabosky, Office of Strategic Communications
The National Intelligence University is different than any other university in the country.
There are no sports teams, students do not pay for books or tuition, and the classrooms are in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF.
Another major difference is that the faculty are experienced professionals from around the Intelligence Community, and they bring real-world expertise and their networks to the learning environment.
This unique environment distinguishes, NIU as the leading institution for intelligence learning, research, and engagement.
NIU was established under the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1962, when DIA integrated Department of Defense intelligence, counterintelligence training programs and career development for intelligence personnel.
NIU transitioned from DIA to Office of the Director of National Intelligence, during a ceremony at the Intelligence Community Campus — Bethesda, on June 29, 2021. The transition expands NIU’s 59- year legacy, as the Intelligence Community’s university.
Most importantly, the university has coursework, in-depth research, and students and faculty that focus on becoming subject matter experts, like Dr. Amy Kardell, dean of NIU’s College of Strategic Intelligence.
“I love to teach, and I love everything I do,” said Kardell. “NIU is unlike any other university. We can integrate intelligence within our learning environment in a way that is timely and accessible for our national security and intelligence workforce.”
One of Kardell’s recent students from National Geospatial Agency was interested in innovation in the IC.
“Being able to take an entire year to study innovation, it stimulated my student in active inquiry as a life learner, and now the student is on the National Board for Research and Innovation in the federal government,” said Kardell. “That is change, and the university changes people’s lives and changes the nature about how we do our business.”
NIU allows federal government employees to start or continue their higher education goals by pursuing a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a certification, or become a research fellowship.
“I think lifelong learning is the thing that ignites us to not become stale or left behind in our thought process, and means someone is always open to learning something more from new ideas, to innovation, to questioning, to things we know or think we know to be true or right,” said Kardell.
Kardell realized she wanted to pursue a career in higher education when she was finishing her Ph.D. at Texas A&M University.
“One of the things I realized was that I was really good at was the art of teaching. I love a big classroom, especially an auditorium style classroom, where you can get jazzed up about a topic, idea or research.”
Kardell is NIU’s first female dean and a graduate of Texas A&M University, where she received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in political science.
After graduating, she moved to Washington D.C. and worked in the health policy field before returning to Texas A&M University to earn her Ph.D. in Sociology.
“When I received my Ph.D., I was looking around the world for opportunities and the Department of Homeland Security was looking for people with my type of education — working in the area of organizational transformation,” said Kardell. “I joined DHS in 2005 and did a number of different things within the community, which included being the Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary for the Intelligence Analysis at DHS.”
Kardell is responsible for leading the educational program for the College of Strategic Intelligence. As part of the stakeholder engagement and curriculum development process, Kardell works with faculty members and IC leaders to ensure courses remain relevant and aligned with the intelligence community priorities. She is dedicated to making NIU a place that everyone within the IC or national security community can find their place.
“As a dean, the fun is getting to watch everyone develop — intellectual transformation is an amazing thing to witness,” said Kardell.
NIU has a unique way of bringing intelligence issues into the classroom. Since the university is in a secure building, the students learn with classified materials and research on classified systems. This experience is far different from a typical university and suits the students’ unique expertise and interests.
“Every one of our courses has some intelligence elements to it, where they are reading cables, reports and current classified intelligence,” said Kardell. “Students are looking at all aspects of IC tradecraft and critical issues of value to national security. They get access to different components within the IC. This is important as not everyone who comes here (NIU) is an analyst or a collector.”
“The university’s student body is more than just analysts or intelligence officers, said Kardell, as many are tank drivers, pilots, staff officers, emergency managers, engineers, and scientists, employed across the federal government. If they have a TS/SCI clearance and are a federal employee or member of the military, they are eligible to attend,” said Kardell.
“It is truly unique that we are supported by the Director of National Intelligence,” said Kardell. “I see NIU as the center of gravity for intellectual thought about critical issues within the national security environment.”