Fresno State students listened to a first-hand account about terrorism and national security and how they apply to higher education settings Wednesday night.
Special Agent Brian Nardella of the FBI spoke to an audience – largely comprised of criminology majors and members of the university’s Army Reserve Officers Training Corps – in a presentation centered on the threat of terrorism in the nation’s colleges and universities.
The departments of criminology and military science and leadership co-sponsored the presentation in the Leon S. and Pete P. Peters Auditorium in the Student Recreation Center.
“The basic idea was to expose students to a bureau that is doing some of this research that falls in line with some of the studies our students are doing and ask the agent the questions that they’ve been reading about or theories that they’ve been exposed to and ask a practitioner how it aligned,” said Lt. Col. Lorenzo Rios, chair of the department of military science and leadership.
Nardella, who has worked five years for the FBI, said the open environment of colleges and universities creates the potential for terrorism.
Several case studies pertaining to the Boston Marathon bombings and Virginia Tech shootings highlighted the potential dangers of terrorism in or near a university setting.
The main goal, Rios and Nardella both said, was to build awareness of the broad career paths and possibilities for students.
“What some of our students will have to realize is that when they’re out there doing their job, whether it’s here or in Afghanistan, they’ll be working collaboratively with other agencies,” Rios said. “So this is an opportunity to start understanding some of the cultural norms of other agencies.”
Nardella also talked about the special agent hiring and recruitment process.
Like other government agencies, the FBI is impacted by this year’s budget sequestration, automatic cuts to federal government spending, that has influenced the career’s future job outlook.
The FBI, which includes about 14,000 sworn members, currently is not hiring, said Nardella. Nonetheless, he encouraged interested audience members to undergo the detailed hiring process.
“The FBI has a pretty strong brand,” Nardella said. “I think interest is always going to be high.”
Wednesday’s presentation started what Rios hopes to become a monthly event.
The department of military science and leadership is hosting Assemblyman Jim Patterson and Fresno State women’s basketball coach Raegan Pebley next Wednesday evening in a leadership forum.
“The idea is we’re going to bring them on-stage to talk to the students about what leadership is and challenging the speakers to present their perspective and engage the students and listen to what their questions are and really open up a dialogue, kind of like a fireside chat,” Rios said.