Josie Nelson is a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) majoring in international studies and political science. Josie worked as an assistant researcher on the NSRI project, NATO Coherent Deterrence, led by Dr. Michelle Black, UNO assistant professor of political science.
The project created a methodology to predict actions by several actors regarding the rapidly melting artic. Strategic profiles for several of the actors were written by UNO students with Josie leading the development, research and writing of two such profiles.
What is it like to work on a project for NATO?
It's very exciting. This is a field that I fell into. I didn't have a major when I started at UNO. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I took a bunch of classes my first semester, and they all fell into the international studies major, which later led me to add the political science major. I also had a knack for the field and enjoyed the complexity of politics and that led me to declare the double major. It's very satisfying to see how something that was so uncertain, is beginning to fall in place and really start to take shape.
How has your work moved the discipline or subject area forward?
We are entering a new era of international relations. This is an era where the U.S. is no longer a hegemon. This is an era where there are multiple powerful actors that will be competing for power. So, I feel that because of these conditions that our work on this methodology is a step toward accepting that power transition and being able to adapt to such a world.
How have your career plans evolved due to your experience on this project?
Initially I was really focused on international relations. The NATO project was my first exposure to deterrence and national security work, even a little bit of intelligence. So now I am open to both international relations and national security work. So much so that I joined Dr. Black on another project, the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE) Project 10, which is funded by DHS and is evaluating IC training and curriculums.
What would your peers find most fascinating about your work on this project?
In Omaha, geographically, it can be a challenge to find an international perspective. With the NATO project we were able to connect with our NATO colleagues who were from all over the world and use their input to help shape our perspective on the profiles themselves.
How has this work moved your education forward?
There aren't enough words to express how much this project improved my research and writing abilities. It's not even just my ability to research and write — it's my confidence in my abilities. I would say I spent 300 hours researching and writing my profiles, so I do not stress over 20-page papers anymore. They do not scare me. I don't even flinch when I see it on a syllabus.
Who mentored you throughout this process? How did you grow from his/her mentorship?
Dr. Black — she helped steer me and my fellow student researchers in the right direction with our work. There were many emails sent back and forth with questions, but I think the most effective response of hers was, "Use your judgment." That really forced me to make that final decision with the contents of what I was working on. It also laid the foundation of my independent research abilities and gave me confidence in my own skills.
Why should other students intern through NSRI?
NSRI has been a blast to work with. NSRI provides opportunities to expose yourself to new fields, even if you aren't committed to them. I certainly wasn't sure of deterrence research when I started, and I am by all means no expert in the field, but I have that foundation should I need it in the future.
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