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Where Diplomats Are Concerned

Posted on May 26, 2015 9:14 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Gentry Smith

Gentry Smith (Political Science ’83) is deputy assistant secretary of state for countermeasures for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Gentry Smith’s exemplary Foreign Service career recently earned him a presidential nomination — not to mention a great view of the world’s stage.

Gentry Smith (Political Science ’83) speaks Arabic and has lived in Japan, Egypt and Burma — a long way from his hometown in Halifax County in eastern North Carolina, where both his parents were schoolteachers. As a child, Smith often tagged along when his dad took students on field trips to NC State. “I loved touring around the campus,” he recalls. “I decided early on that NC State was the place for me.”

He began his college career in engineering, but he changed his major to political science after taking classes in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He also participated in the Air Force ROTC program. That experience — along with conversations about political theory and foreign policy with professors such as Abe Holtzman, Eva Rubin and Robin Dorff — sparked Smith’s interest in national security.

That interest in foreign policy and national security eventually led Smith to a 27-year career in the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service, culminating most recently in a position as deputy assistant secretary of state for countermeasures for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. In September 2014 President Obama nominated him to be director of the Office of Foreign Missions at the State Department, a position carrying ambassadorial rank and requiring U.S. Senate approval.

In his countermeasures role Smith facilitated the process of diplomacy abroad and at home, helping to ensure that American diplomats working overseas were protected and their needs were met. His office also worked to guarantee that State Department facilities and personnel in the United States were secure.

“Our strong focus is on protecting our personnel and also protecting our national security information,” says Smith. “We want to ensure that all our embassies meet our security standards.” In addition to protecting Americans against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, Smith protected U.S. embassies and consulates overseas against the implantation of devices that could compromise intelligence.

Smith’s Foreign Service career began with a chance encounter at Crabtree Valley Mall. He had been an officer with the Raleigh Police Department for four years after graduating from NC State, and he was doing some off-duty work at the mall when he ran into a former police colleague who was home visiting while training to work in diplomatic security.

“We chatted and realized we had a mutual friend who was working in the Foreign Service,” Smith says. “I had toyed with the idea of entering the Foreign Service during senior year, and I thought if the opportunity ever presented itself, I would definitely want to pursue it.”

Smith reconnected with his old classmate. “He described the job, and it was the perfect blend of law enforcement and serving in the Foreign Service,” he recalls. “It sounded like it was created just for me.”
Soon Smith was forging a new career. He and his wife, NC State alumna Georgette Jackson Smith (BA ’80 Political Science; BA ’83 Business Management), raised three of their children in a variety of places all over the world.

“My kids grew up overseas. They have fond memories of their international experiences,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to experience other cultures and to share U.S. culture with other people.”

He’s witnessed events most of us only read about. “I’ve been exposed to certain things I never could have dreamed,” he says. “When the Soviet Union became the Russian Federation, I had a front-row seat. When Boris Yeltsin came to power, we were there within days. During the Middle East peace process, I was there when the agreement was signed between Jordan and Israel.”

Smith also remembers his first visit to KGB headquarters in Russia. “It was days after the failed Gorbachev coup. I was there with a colleague from the embassy, and we looked at each other and wondered if there had ever been any Americans in the facility before. We chuckled and thought, ‘Maybe we’re the first.’”

Gentry and Georgette Smith remain strong Wolfpack fans. He says he’s particularly pleased by the ways in which NC State has embraced global learning, both through its International Studies Program major and through its World Language Course Exchange, which allows students to take foreign languages offered by other universities in the UNC system.

“Americans have always had that pioneer spirit; we’ve always looked beyond our borders. We should never lose that,” says Smith. “I think the more we engage with the rest of the world, the better off we’ll be because we’ll understand each other better. That’s what it’s going to take.”

— Christa Gala

This article first appeared in the college's Accolades 2015 magazine.

In Memoriam: Slater Newman

Posted on May 21, 2015 7:37 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Slater Newman

Slater Newman

Slater Edmund Newman, professor emeritus of psychology, passed away on May 13, 2015.

Newman joined NC State’s psychology faculty in 1957, and remained active within the college long after retiring in 2003. At NC State, he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in cognitive psychology, conducted research on human learning and memory and mentored hundreds of students who remember him fondly for his encouragement, high expectations and fairness. He was well known for his love of singing, his sense of humor, and his commitment to human rights and peace. He could be found every month for 35 years at the Vigil for Disarmament on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh.

At NC State, Newman founded the Human Rights Week Committee and served as faculty advisor for the student chapters of Amnesty International and Psi Chi, the international honor society for Psychology. He was awarded the Holladay Medal of Excellence and established the Slater E. Newman Scholarship Endowment in 1997 to support first-year students in Psychology.

Within the field of psychology, he founded the Southeastern Workers in Memory, the NC Cognition Group and was a co-founder of the Carolinas Conference for Undergraduate Research in Psychology. He served on the Board of Directors of the Southeastern Psychological Association, and as National President of Psi Chi. He was a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science and the Psychonomic Society.

As a human rights and peace activist, Newman helped found the ACLU of North Carolina and its Wake County chapter; North Carolinians Against the Death Penalty; North Carolinians Against Apartheid; North Carolinians for the Ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); the Human Rights Coalition of North Carolina, Citizens Against Nuclear Power; and the Committee to Reverse the Arms Race -- and was active in the governance of each.

“Slater touched the lives of hundreds of students—and was deeply respected and admired by his faculty colleagues,” said Jeff Braden, professor of psychology and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “His humor, his intellect and his unwavering passion for human rights will be missed by many on the campus and in the community.”

Newman is survived by his wife of 46 years, Pat, by three sons and their families, and by an extended network of family, friends, former students and colleagues.

A memorial service to celebrate Slater Newman’s life will be held at a future date. Contributions may be made to the Slater E. Newman Scholarship, with checks payable to the NC State University Foundation, Inc., c/o Humanities and Social Sciences Office of Development, Box 7016, Raleigh, NC, 27695-7016 or online; to the ACLU of North Carolina, P.O. Box 28004, Raleigh, NC, 27611; or to a charity of one’s choice.

This article draws from an obituary in the Raleigh News and Observer.

May Student of the Month

Posted on May 20, 2015 8:03 am by dlleeder

May Student of the Month Cody Davidson

May Student of the Month Cody Davidson

Meet Cody Davidson, Humanities and Social Sciences Student of the Month

Hometown: Pilot Mountain, NC

Class:  Junior

Major:  Communication

Minors: Business Administration; English

Sample Courses:

  • Critical Analysis of Communication Media
  • Marketing Methods
  • Contemporary European Literature and Film


  • Social Media and Marketing Intern, Kay Yow Cancer Fund, Fall 2014
  • Social Media Coordinator, English Club, Fall 2014-Spring 2015
  • Brand Ambassador, Banana Republic, January 2015-present
  • Study Abroad in Netherlands, Summer 2014
  • Member, NC State Dressage Club Team
  • Educational Psychology Research Assistant
  • Volunteer and Event Planner, NC State GLBT Center
  • Mentor, Read to L.E.A.D. program
  • Representative, Inter-residence Council/Residence Hall Council


University Honors Program

Postgraduate Plans:

Position at a public relations or marketing firm, hopefully focused on fashion.  May eventually return to school for MBA or master's degree in journalism or communication.

Why did you choose the College of Humanities and Social Sciences?

I love the people and the college's way of thinking. Everyone is very open-minded and so willing to help one another that I naturally found a home in the college’s nurturing environment. The sense of community is an inherent part of the college. Everyone from faculty to students has always been incredibly nice and helpful; I just walk into Caldwell Lounge and I feel at home.

What has been your favorite Humanities and Social Sciences course? Do any individuals stand out as making a difference for you?

My favorite course thus far is Public Relations Writing (COM 316) with Professor Dean Phillips. I have benefited from the extensive knowledge he carries from his years inside and outside the classroom. He shared with us his experiences and gave us practical skills that we will use for many years in our careers.  My first advisor, Tara Hudson in the College of Education, was pivotal in my success at NC State. I must have had a million questions when I first arrived. She was a fabulous advisor because she answered all of my questions with such patience, and strongly encouraged me to get involved around campus. She was one of the first friendly faces when I arrived on campus, and that made all the difference.

What has been your greatest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge, although not unique to me, has been trying to find my way at a large university. However, once I got involved and found my niche, I made some of the most devoted and genuine friends of my life.

What advice would you give incoming students?

Most of my family did not attend college. Many of them have found great success in other ways, but college has opened the doors for me to have a professional career, an opportunity most of my family never dreamed of. It has also opened my eyes and taught me how to think differently, seeing things from varying perspectives.  So my advice for incoming students would be to have an open mind and experiment with new things. I have been involved in so many activities during my time on campus and each one has taught me so much. I am still trying new things because I realize that this is the one time in my life where I will have a wealth of resources at my disposal.  Also, get to know your professors. They want nothing more than to help you succeed and they will value the fact that you took the time to get to know them.

Do You Read Me?

Posted on May 18, 2015 7:25 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Hector Rendon and Jessica Jameson

Collaboration Group members Hector Rendon and Jessica Jameson use a method of data analysis known as affinity diagramming to sort their observations of LAS meetings into themes

Engineers have their own way of talking about their work. Computer scientists often speak a different kind of code. Statisticians employ yet another specialized language. Get them all together and it can feel like a veritable Tower of Babel.

Such varied discipline-specific languages are being spoken at NC State’s Laboratory for Analytic Sciences (LAS), the National Security Agency-funded research enterprise on Centennial Campus that’s advancing the field of big-data analytics and intelligence analysis. Faculty, industry and government partners there are working to improve the nation’s ability to collect, understand and interpret data from foreign communications, radar and other electronic systems.

“Interdisciplinary teams are looking into how best to analyze big data efficiently, effectively and ethically,” says Jessica Jameson, professor of communication. “But because the members come from such disparate orientations, perspectives and disciplines, communication was less than ideal. There was growing frustration about processes, and because the groups were working on important information that helps ensure national security, it was imperative that they learn to collaborate effectively.”

Enter the Collaboration Group, led by Jameson and comprising experts in social science, communication, management and design. Members serve as group facilitators for the LAS teams, provide technical support and serve as the organizational memory for team meetings and projects. They’re also conducting research to identify the contributors and impediments to interdisciplinary collaboration.

“We are playing a vital role in moving research forward at the LAS,” says Jameson. “We are ensuring they are all on the same page.”

The Collaboration Group includes Fulbright scholar Hector Rendon, a doctoral student in the interdisciplinary Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media program. “As communication experts, we can ask questions so that points are restated in ways that everyone can understand,” he says. “The goal is to make the process of collaboration as easy as possible.”

Rendon appreciates the opportunity to apply what he’s learning in the classroom. “Communication is important in every discipline,” he says. “As experts in it, we have a lot to bring to the table.”

By Caroline Barnhill

This article first appeared in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences magazine, Accolades.


Where Technology and Intelligence Meet the Social Sciences

Posted on May 14, 2015 10:05 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Kathleen Vogel

Political scientist Kathleen Vogel applies her expertise in bioweapons, intelligence, technology and security as she leads the college’s Science, Technology and Society program.

Advancements in science and technology generate social, ethical and political issues. Programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences are teaching students how to navigate these changing waters as they strive to make the world a smarter — and safer — place.

Top headlines in newspapers around the world feature stories about the effects of science and technology on our physical, cultural and political climates. From nuclear energy to cellphone surveillance, these complex, hotly debated matters present a host of thorny implications at all levels of society.

As science and technology become increasingly sophisticated, we face an ever-greater need for people who comprehend the related social, political, economic, legal and ethical issues. “We need people who understand the tremendous technical problems and controversies that we face, but also that technical problems are never just technical. They have important social dimensions as well,” explains Kathleen Vogel, associate professor of political science and head of the college’s Science, Technology and Society (STS) program. Vogel, a noted scholar in the areas of bioweapons, intelligence, technology and security, joined the college in the fall of 2014.

The 25-year-old STS program, housed within the college’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, teaches students to think about how science and technology shape society and vice versa. For a university such as NC State, which produces many engineers and scientists, Vogel believes it is critical to help students understand the bigger picture of the work they are doing. “Engineers are building all kinds of technologies that have societal implications. We want them to identify and recognize those issues and be prepared to respond to them,” Vogel says.

Training the next cohort of intelligence experts

An initiative in the college’s School of Public and International Affairs addresses the role social science plays in national security and the intelligence industry. Vogel and fellow political science professor William Boettcher are co-leaders on a five-year, $1.86 million grant to launch an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence (IC-CAE), a program run by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The grant, shared with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina Central University, is intended to teach students how to assess today’s changing intelligence and security challenges while also teaching them more about this critical, but often poorly understood, profession.

“There is a real need for a curriculum in intelligence studies to create a pipeline of students wanting to pursue jobs in this industry,” says Boettcher, an expert in foreign policy, national security and nuclear nonproliferation. “In the past, people with careers in the intelligence or nuclear nonproliferation communities, for example, had pretty irregular paths to the positions they held. They might have started with a technical background, gone into the military, held a state government job and then finally ended up somewhere like the National Security Agency. It’s important to have a diverse group of qualified people ready to take these jobs that are critically important in terms of our national security. This grant will help us educate the next cohort of intelligence experts.”

Boettcher expects to see interest from students studying political science, history and public affairs as well as those with backgrounds in science and engineering. The program will allow the college to offer courses on topics including bioweapons, intelligence, nuclear nonproliferation and “spy vs. spy” — an intelligence history of the Cold War.

“I’ll be teaching Science, Technology and International Security,” Vogel says, “where we’ll talk about things like the Ebola outbreak in west Africa and how various policy officials named it a national security issue — and why we need to worry domestically about something happening in another country. There are of course technical aspects, but there are also larger factors that shape how something like that becomes a security issue.”

Political science assistant professor Robert Reardon, who has done extensive research on the effectiveness of sanctions, military force and diplomacy as policy tools to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, plans to teach a course on U.S. intelligence and national security policy.

“Intelligence plays a major role in nearly every issue of national security policy, including the identification of threats, the analysis of intentions and capabilities of other states and nonstate actors, and the identification of military targets during conflicts,” Reardon explains. “Because the role of intelligence is far more visible when intelligence fails than when it succeeds, we tend to take it for granted and underestimate its importance. It is also understudied and undertaught in our universities. There is a large, unfilled demand for training the next generation of intelligence experts, particularly in intelligence analysis on issues at the nexus of science and engineering on the one hand and politics on the other. NC State is uniquely positioned to help fill that gap.”

In addition to the new courses, the IC-CAE grant will create a specialization in intelligence studies through the School of Public and International Affairs’ Master of International Studies program, as well as an undergraduate minor in intelligence studies in the Department of Political Science. Funds will be available to take students on learning trips to places like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Pentagon to give them a chance to network with people in the industry and learn more about careers in these fields.

Preparing informed citizens

“We obviously hope these courses and field trips will help students consider a career in the field of intelligence and security, but even more than that, we want to create better-informed citizens,” Vogel says. “Also, there are always going to be issues we must understand in science and technology because they are an integral part of our lives. Society must constantly address how to incorporate, adopt or reject technologies, and these decisions are often hotly debated.

“From fracking to nuclear weaponry to reproductive medical techniques, we need smart people who can address the technical issues as well as the larger set of issues shaping the controversy, and who can intervene and find constructive ways to manage and organize the conversation,” she says. “That’s what we want out of our academic programs, and grants like the IC-CAE help fund ways to teach it.”

— Caroline Barnhill

This article first appeared in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences magazine, Accolades.