Down to the Data
The Bush School of Government and Public Service’s Intelligence Studies Program transforms students into workforce-ready professionals through practical instruction.
The United States of America depends on an elite team of unsung heroes to keep its citizens safe each day—intelligence specialists. Through specialized data and threat analysis, intelligence agents gather and interpret information to strategically improve America’s defense. These highly skilled intelligence operatives must learn their skills somewhere, and Texas A&M University offers the best program in the business.
Founded in 1997 and named after President George H.W. Bush, the Bush School of Government and Public Service expanded its graduate education horizons when former CIA operative Jim Olson began the intelligence studies concentration. The program’s practitioner-based teaching approach allows students to learn from former intelligence agency professionals and their real-life experiences.
“We don’t spend a lot of time on theory; we teach students the skills we, as practitioners, know they need to be successful,” Olson explained. “Our students are here because they feel a call to serve something larger than themselves, and we push them so they leave here having done their best. That’s why we’ve emerged as the country’s top intelligence program.”
I don’t feel that my work alone has greatly impacted America, but my teams have left an impressive mark. I continue serving because of the people I’m so lucky to serve with every day.
Brandon Maguire ’19
Inspired by his family’s history of military service, Brandon Maguire ’19 has served his country for the last 14 years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. After receiving the opportunity to continue his education through the advanced civil schooling program, Maguire graduated from the Bush School with a master’s in international affairs.
“The Bush School provided me with a more strategic approach to intelligence and national security than I had been exposed to previously,” he emphasized. “I received more insight into current issues, how the world has evolved and potential future situations.”
Now, Maguire uses his degree to manage the Army’s intelligence warfighting function as the Senior Intelligence Officer for the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.
“Sometimes intelligence is a thankless job. We carry out our duties, but intelligence personnel don’t usually get much recognition; we’re often behind the scenes,” Maguire explained. “I don’t feel that my work alone has greatly impacted America, but my teams have left an impressive mark. I continue serving because of the people I’m so lucky to serve with every day.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Amy Heldt ’19
Joining the FBI was a lifelong dream for Amy Heldt ’19, and her journey to fulfill that aspiration led her to the Bush School. Thanks to the program’s affordability, Heldt attained a master’s in international affairs, becoming well-versed in intelligence practices and global interests that she now applies in the FBI as an intelligence analyst.
“I leave each day of work feeling like I did something meaningful,” Heldt said. “When a major world event occurs, it’s nice to be part of solving the problem instead of just watching it happen.”
In her role, Heldt consolidates government and open-source data to provide strategic analytic products for use within the FBI. “The things I enjoy most about my job would be pretty boring to watch on TV,” she grinned. “Most of my work involves following a paper trail or piecing together who someone is from a variety of sources.”
The Bush School was invaluable to Heldt, providing useful tools for day-to-day work and inspiration to serve America in the FBI for the duration of her career. “The Bush School focuses on both practical and theoretical approaches to intelligence and international affairs,” Heldt concluded. “There isn’t anywhere better to prepare you for a career in intelligence.”
I leave each day of work feeling like I did something meaningful. When a major world event occurs, it’s nice to be part of solving the problem instead of just watching it happen.
Bush School graduates are inherently more relatable when interviewing for a job because they have a better understanding of their role within the Intelligence Community before they even apply.
Central Intelligence Agency
As a senior CIA officer, knows the benefits of studying under some of the best intelligence practitioners. Their journey to the intelligence community directed them toward the Bush School, where they met CIA legend Jim Olson.
“Everyone who studied under Olson is proud to follow him,” said. “He’s been involved in some of the most impactful CIA operations in our history at the height of the Cold War, and his record of service and professionalism in the classroom is an inspiring example for students.”
Under Olson’s practical teaching methods, excelled in their studies and entered the CIA with a toolbelt of intelligence skills that most officers learn only from field experience.
“Many programs teach excellent public policy, but few teach the practical applications and challenges of serving in the intelligence community,” said. “Bush School graduates are inherently more relatable when interviewing for a job because they have a better understanding of their role within the intelligence community before they even apply.”
For the past several years, has has used their Bush School skills to defend the country from threats, viewing their under-the-radar role in protecting our national security as an act of selfless service and patriotism.
“Texas A&M has a proud culture of service—it’s inculcated in students early on,” explained. “The Bush School reinforces that dedication to service and provides an avenue to pursue it as a profession. There are many Bush School graduates quietly serving, doing extraordinary and brave things in intelligence around the world that most people will never know about.”
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Cheyney Allen '17
When Cheyney Allen ’17 was accepted into the Bush School, she thought it was her chance to pursue her dream of joining the FBI. Following an internship with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, however, she found a new path to aid in national defense.
As a data steward and imagery analyst for NGA, Allen uses satellite data to aid military operations, disaster relief, safe navigation and more, often working closely with the other intelligence agencies.
“We help everyone whenever geospatial questions are involved,” Allen explained. “If we see something, we provide warning and work with decision-makers to ensure they can take the best action for the situation.”
Looking back, Allen credits the Bush School’s instruction in briefing, intelligence writing and analysis for crafting her into the successful intelligence professional she is today. “The first time I took the oath, it was a powerful moment, swearing to protect the country however I can. Overall, it is 100% where I'm meant to be,” she said.
The first time I took the oath, it was a powerful moment, swearing to protect the country however I can. Overall, it is 100% where I'm meant to be.
I’m not certain what the future holds, but wherever my career takes me, the Bush School has prepared me well.
Sandia National Laboratories
Noelle Camp '19
Growing up, Noelle Camp ’19 listened in awe as her grandfather regaled her with stories of his military service. Inspired to follow in his footsteps and pursue public service, Camp applied to the Bush School to learn under industry professionals like Olson and retired U.S. Ambassador Larry Napper ’69.
“The Bush School is a feeder into the intelligence community and the U.S. government because it equips students for many careers in public service,” Camp said.
Upon her graduation, Camp was hired at Sandia National Laboratories, a federally funded nuclear research and development facility in New Mexico. There, she researches insider threat mitigation to prevent nuclear incidents both at home and abroad.
“Someone who has authorized access and knowledge about facility operations could steal nuclear material or sabotage a nuclear facility, resulting in widespread public health implications,” Camp explained. “Our understanding of insider characteristics and what drives them is still evolving, but my research on insider threat mitigation and counterintelligence is helping fill that knowledge gap.”
As China relations continue to stay at the forefront of international affairs, Camp hopes to attain a Ph.D. in China studies before becoming a professor or returning to public service.
“Right now, China is the emerging national security challenge the U.S. government will face over the next decade or more,” Camp said. “I’m not certain what the future holds, but wherever my career takes me, the Bush School has prepared me well.”
Make a Donation
Help create the next generation of intelligence professionals by supporting the Bush School’s Intelligence Studies Program online at give.am/IntelligenceStudiesProgram.