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Language for Life: Professional Opportunities in National Security and Intelligence

6:30-8:00pm, Wednesday, April 25, 126 Memorial Library, 728 State St.

Over 75 UW-Madison students and members of the public attended an April 25 panel discussion on internship and career opportunities in U.S. intelligence and national security agencies for students with language and cultural competencies. Panelists, representing the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Language Service Corps, National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, spoke about proficiency in languages other than English as a national security issue. FBI representative Peter Sursi put it plainly: "Being bad is a growth industry, and people are bad in languages other than English all the time."


The panelists described career paths available for students with language skills and knowledge of the culture and world regions in which the language is spoken. "For those who are studying a foreign language and gaining regional expertise," said Errol Smith, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, "there are numerous positions in the intelligence community where such skills are highly desired or even required."

This event, part of the Language for Life series, was sponsored by the Language Institute, with the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages and the UW-Madison Russian Flagship Center. Language for Life is a program of the UW-Madison Language Institute that gives current students the opportunity to meet with working professionals who studied a foreign language in college and are using that language in their professional or personal lives in inspiring ways. Language for Life is made possible by the support of the College of Letters and Science Anonymous Fund. See past Language for Life Programs.

Materials (PDF format)

Using Your Foreign Language Proficiency and Regional Expertise: Career Opportunities in the Federal Government
The National Language Service Corps

A crowd of over 75 people filled the room in Memorial Library to attend the panel.
A crowd of over 75 people filled the room in Memorial Library to attend the panel.

Peter Sursi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, presents his 'Top 10 Tips for Getting a Job with the FBI.'
Peter Sursi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, presents his 'Top 10 Tips for Getting a Job with the FBI.'

Errol Smith, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, discusses the need for language and regional expertise in the federal government.
Errol Smith, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, discusses the need for language and regional expertise in the federal government.

More images can be found on our facebook page.

Featured speakers

Al Leftwich, Defense Intelligence Agency
Al Leftwich is Chief of the Foreign Language Branch of the Center for Language, Regional Expertise and Culture at the Defense intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C. The DIA Center for LREC coordinates training in foreign language and area studies for the DIA's global workforce, conducts foreign language proficiency testing, manages DIA foreign language capabilities and applies language technology to meet mission requirements. Prior to joining DIA as a civilian in 2005, Mr. Leftwich served 24 years as an Army officer including 16 years as a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Latin American issues. He earned the BA in English from Louisiana State University, the MA in History from the University of Richmond and the MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University.

William Rivers, Chief Linguist, National Language Service Corps
Dr. William Rivers has overall responsibility for advising the Director on Language and Culture in all facets of the NLSC. This includes membership standards; proficiency standards and their certification; NLSC relationships with heritage, academic and government language communities; language and culture training for NLSC members.

Patrice Shackleford, National Security Agency
Hired into a National Security Agency Student Program in 1984, Patrice has held a variety of positions in NSA’s language world --- Russian language analyst, language recruiter, and director of various language cross-training and language development programs. Most recently, she serves as Outreach Officer for NSA’s Senior Language Authority and as Director of a popular intern program for college students, NSA’s Summer Language Program.

Errol Smith, Foreign Language Program Office, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Peter Sursi, Chief, Language Personnel Resource Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Peter Sursi is Unit Chief of the Language Personnel Resources Unit for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which manages the national hiring process for linguists. He started with the FBI in 1997 as a Japanese linguist before moving into management.

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