By Alexander Nocks ’19
I discovered William & Mary’s Global Research Institute when I was in high school. A family friend was showing me around campus and took me by the Institute where his team lead immediately engaged me in a conversation about my interests. Her expectation that I had a perspective to offer and something worth saying was intimidating.
PIPS fellows and principal investigators meet on campus.
Fast forward two years and I’m sitting in Tyler 131 for the year’s first meeting of the Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS). The conference table fills, the lights dim, and the projector roars to life. An electric buzz of potential runs through the room. I’m intimidated again, but this time I know I belong. That’s the first thing the Institute taught me: that even as an undergrad, I can provide analysis that matters. There’s a lot to learn from helping other organizations or individuals with their work, but at too many schools that’s where the ceiling is. Here, it’s the floor.
What sets the Global Research Institute apart is its commitment to train students to change the world and its willingness to demand that the world listens. The Institute is willing to advocate for its students because the faculty and staff know we’re being equipped to deliver. Stick around long enough and you’ll find your writing, speaking, and analysis improving more than you thought possible.
At that first PIPS meeting, I couldn’t imagine presenting my original research with confidence, and yet that’s precisely what happened. Seven months later I was comfortably briefing representatives from Congress, the military, and the intelligence community on my regulatory proposals (pdf) to better secure emerging commercialized geospatial intelligence. I’d grown a lot since day one, not by some magical revelation, but because of the steady support from Institute faculty and staff.
PIPS fellows Ranjani Parthasarathy ’18, Alexander Nocks ’19, Meg Miller ’19, and Clara Waterman ’20 pose with a USAF fighter jet after presenting their white papers in Washington, D.C.
That support carries beyond the core projects at the Institute. Having received funding from its Global Research Shark Tank competition, my research partner and I are now leading a team to map the spatiotemporal distribution of Hezbollah’s public construction projects. We are able to design and implement our unique methodology thanks to a place that’s willing to take risks on students, and then provide the close faculty and logistical support needed to enable each of us to succeed.
Alexander Nocks ’19 and Adam Kearney ’20 respond to questions at the Global Research Shark Tank competition.
The Global Research Institute trusts and supports its students. As a prospective student, I was intimidated because I only saw half the story: the expectation that undergrads will contribute smart ideas to serious conversations. What I didn’t see then were all the resources provided to equip its students to excel. It’s easy to get caught up in the topline deliverables, but only looking at those hides the real advantage of the Institute. It isn’t great just because it recruits well; it’s great because it develops its students. At the Institute, students can change the world, but it’s only because we have the opportunity to learn and grow first.