Category: Student Experience

Title: Veteran and Student Brigid Calhoun on the McCourt Experience

Can you share a bit about your background?

I do not come from a military family, but I felt a call to service after September 11th. I grew up in Illinois and attended West Point for college where I majored in history. I originally wanted to join the CIA, but while at West Point, I learned that I could serve as an intelligence officer in the Army and accomplish all of my academic and professional goals. After graduation, I served in the historic 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (They are the unit featured in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.)

From Fort Campbell, I deployed twice to Afghanistan––first with special operations forces and then my own unit. I spent the next four years in northern Italy, joining the unit only a year after Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula, working alongside our NATO allies to deter Russian aggression. I enjoyed working as part of a multi-national team to solve complex problems.

In April 2019, I moved to Arlington to work for the senior Army intelligence officer in the Pentagon where I learned a lot about the global threats the U.S. faces and how all the branches of our military work together. In June 2019, I was accepted into the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Internship program and the McCourt School for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Each year approximately 20 active-duty U.S. Army Officers participate in the JCS Internship program and pursue a McCourt School Master’s Degree in Policy Management with a follow on assignment within the Joint Staff or Office of the Secretary of Defense.

How do you think your military background impacts your experience in the classroom?

The military trains us to be adaptive problem-solvers, to thrive in ambiguous environments, and to work with all types of people –– skills that have been crucial in the virtual setting this year. I’ve also found that our McCourt veteran community has really pulled together to help one another out.

I also empathize with our foreign exchange students, because I have also been a guest in a foreign country and cherish the kindness that my Italian friends showed me.

What have you enjoyed most about your McCourt experience thus far?

My two favorite classes have been Public Policy Process with Professor Camissa and Speechwriting with Professor O’Brien. Both of them have been incredibly organized and bring fun-loving energy to the class.

Outside of class, the Civil-Military Association (CMA) has kept the momentum going from its debut last year. CMA seeks to bring civilian and military students together to discuss defense and national security issues, preparing student members for future careers in the defense sector.

CMA has especially been a fruitful forum for the active-duty U.S. Army Officers participating in the JCS internship program to stay connected to the defense enterprise while at Georgetown. After graduation, we will complete a two-year assignment at the Pentagon working on the Joint Staff and then the Army Staff before returning to the operational Army.

The participation from my fellow JCS interns, fellow veterans, and other interested students have made the CMA program flourish. This year, we hosted virtual events with Jim Hake (CEO and founder of Spirit of America), Dr. Nadia Schadlow (Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of the 2017 National Security Strategy), Dr. James Carafano (Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation) and Dr. Elizabeth Samet (West Point English professor and author of The Annotated Memoirs of U.S. Grant.)

Our final event of the semester, in collaboration with the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics), will feature a discussion with GU Politics Fellow Mary Katharine Ham.

How do you think your McCourt education will help shape your future career?

When the JCS interns return to the Pentagon, we will immediately apply what we’ve learned at McCourt. Although we have not been able to meet everyone in person, we have formed strong relationships with faculty and peers. I intend to pursue a doctorate in the future, and I believe I built a strong academic foundation at McCourt.