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Shaping the Future of National Security Professionals at LVC
Bringing Expertise in Intelligence and National Security
Leslie VanBelkum, a seasoned intelligence professional with a wealth of knowledge and experience, has joined the faculty at Lebanon Valley College, as an adjunct professor, to play a pivotal role in the Master of Science in Intelligence and Security Studies (MSISS) program. His commitment to training the next generation of intelligence and national security professionals, combined with the unique offerings of LVC’s program, makes for an exciting journey towards shaping the future of the U.S. intelligence community.
VanBelkum comes to LVC with remarkable expertise in intelligence and national security. His career began in the U.S. Air Force as an All-Source Intelligence Analyst, where he conducted numerous humanitarian missions in countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Afghanistan. His service as a Special Forces language-enabled Combat Advisor to the Afghan Army and Counter Terrorism Unit added a unique dimension to his experience.
VanBelkum’s contributions continued as he taught geopolitics, culture, and terrorism topics at the Air Force Special Operations School for four years. His post-military career saw him as a Senior Intelligence Analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where he focused on terrorist entities in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region and co-authored multiple intelligence assessments for the President’s Daily Brief.
In his most recent role as an Intelligence Research Specialist in the Office of Security at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), VanBelkum played a crucial part in ensuring the safety and security of USAID Missions in 80 countries. He led a COVID response team and provided assistance during humanitarian disasters in Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.
Preparing Future Intelligence and National Security Professionals
VanBelkum’s decision to join LVC as an adjunct professor was motivated by his passion for educating and preparing future intelligence and national security professionals. Program director Dr. Chris Dolan’s deep knowledge, combined with VanBelkum’s hands-on experience within the U.S. intelligence community, ensures that students gain both theoretical and practical insights.
“LVC’s MSISS program is different from other university intelligence and security programs in the fact that the MSISS program combines both theoretical learning and practical application of intelligence and national security studies,” VanBelkum said.
“The program strongly focuses on written projects that are directly related to U.S. National Security Strategy. The online aspect of the program allows both traditional students and working professionals from around the U.S. the opportunity to gain academic credentials while continuing their professional careers.”
Providing Real-World Experiences
A standout feature of the program is the opportunity for students to engage in internships, providing them with real-world experience and a competitive edge in the field. VanBelkum has successfully facilitated numerous student internships with government agencies like the Department of State. His vision is to elevate the MSISS program to the status of an Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence (IC CAE) Program, which would provide funding and direct access to the U.S. intelligence community, further enhancing its prestige and opportunities.
VanBelkum says graduates of the MSISS program will have a multitude of promising career paths from which to choose.
“I believe the most direct career graduates of the MSISS program will take is within the U.S. Intelligence Community. Opportunities with other U.S. government agencies like the Department of State are highly likely. Graduates also have the opportunity to work at numerous Think Tanks or the ever-increasing commercial entities that provide intelligence support to private companies.”
VanBelkum’s dedication to education and his wealth of experience in the U.S. intelligence community make him an invaluable addition to the faculty at LVC’s MSISS program. Under his guidance, students can gain not only theoretical knowledge but also practical experience, positioning them as the next generation of national security and intelligence professionals.
The MSISS program’s unique blend of academia and real-world exposure, combined with VanBelkum’s expertise, sets the stage for an exciting future in the field of intelligence and national security.