“Can I call you in a few minutes?” Angie typed into the chat window, “I’m on the phone with the Pentagon.” Even as her fingers tapped off the words for the very first time, a grin spread across her face as she realized: some dreams come true. Angie served in the U.S. Navy as an aircraft technician for 6 years before going on to get her B.S. in English-Writing from Montana State University. She applied to grad school to prove to her mentor she wasn’t smart enough for it. Her first year as a Ph.D student at ISU found her putting together a learning community for Veterans and military, driven by her own struggles with merging military excellence with academic excellence. Shortly thereafter she realized that she needed a way to serve her country again—while maintaining the academic rigor she had come to value. After two years of spending her evenings searching for a way to connect her research focus on visual communication with counterterrorism research, she made connections that would change the course of her career.
As a result, Angie was recently invited to participate in a global simulation to analyze the impact of visual and textual counterterrorism narrative on the terrorist group ISIS and those populations caught in the instability. The simulation was hosted by the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., and included agencies such as the U.S. State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Special Operations Commands. Happily, Angie found the government agencies receptive to visual rhetorical analysis and eager to incorporate academic perspectives. “It wasn’t what I remember from my days working in the Navy,” she said. “Some of these high-ranking officers were also Ph.D’s and they knew the value of bringing every perspective available into the conversation. I was impressed that they don’t want to continue things as usual—they want to understand what motivates the humans involved in this terrible war and they want to be smart about making a difference. That’s a mission both my veteran-side and my academic-side can get behind.” Angie smiled, “It’s good to have found a middle ground–and a new mission.”
Angie is active in veterans research, presenting at conferences and taking every opportunity to speak out about the negative effects of stereotyping veterans, as well as speaking on the need for increased safe spaces in academia to talk about sexual assault. When she graduates, her aim is to work as a counterterrorism communication analyst. Angie is contributing to a forthcoming whitepaper that will discuss the findings of the counterterrorism simulation.
Oh, and why did the Pentagon call? Angie blushes shyly, still in disbelief, “They wanted to ‘discuss a concept with me.’ That’s a good day for rhetoric, I’d say, and a good day for the English Department and ISU. I’m honored to be a small part of it.”