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National Intelligence University (NIU) Research Fellows Program

As a part of the Intelligence Community, the National Intelligence University (NIU) is the only accredited federal degree granting institution; it has Academic Centers for learning across the globe and its main campus is in Washington, D.C. NIU houses a myriad of expertise from around the world; students and faculty alike bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and practicality from a wide range of fields to the classrooms. NIU’s unique ability for students to study and work on research projects in the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented (TS/SCI) format is a sought after opportunity.

One opportunity they offer, the Research Fellows Program, enables students (as fellows) to embark on a 12 month Fellowship where they are released from their daily employment to work on a particular topic of interest to the community. Through NIU’s Center for Strategic Intelligence Research, this program is competitive and candidates must be nominated through their host Agency for consideration.

Specifically, approximately 5-8 fellows are chosen each year from a myriad of agencies within the Intelligence Community and Military Services. Each applicant and selectee is required to possess an active TS/SCI clearance as well as a Master of Arts or Master of Science and represent a GS-13 or above category (military will need to be of equivalent grade or rank). Applicants should ensure they can successfully demonstrate creative abilities, critical thinking and the ability to work independently.

Research will be based in the areas of the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Global Futures, Intelligence Studies and Advanced Analysis, which are the foundation initiatives of the Center.  Candidates will be required to:

  • Address issues of strategic concern to decision makers and professionals
  • Cover topics that are not given sufficient attention or are under appreciated
  • Cut across traditional functional and regional issues
  • Develop innovative analytic methodologies
  • Build substantive expertise
  • Employ innovative research design

If selected, fellows will be provided a stipend for research expenses that include travel, books and applicable software. A workspace with full computer access to libraries, etc., will also be provided along with a mentor/subject matter expert who will provide guidance throughout the research process; milestones and deliverables will be established as part of the requirement to submit a final written product for NIU peer review and potential dissemination to the IC and/or publication. This program provides candidates with a unique opportunity to work with senior leadership across the intelligence community on a myriad of issues.

Selection Procedures are as follows:

  • Review – Research Center staff (panel) will convene to review all applications and choose up to three fellows.
  • An Interview will be scheduled with the selected candidates where research questions, data collection plan proposal, research methodologies, etc. will be discussed.
  • Selected candidates will be notified through their home offices on or before 1 March; alternates will be chosen in event an original selectee cannot participate.


As a candidate for the National Intelligence University Fellows Program, I found the application process streamlined and organized. First, I determined which topic of choice I would like to research in conjunction with the ‘needs’ of the intelligence community. Specifically, my choice was “Information Sharing and Collaboration at the National, State, Local and Tribal Levels.” After narrowing down the scope a bit to focus in on the efforts already in existence (and working well), I outlined the highlighted areas of importance surrounding information sharing. For example: Policy and Governance, Department of Homeland Security Fusion Centers, Technology, and so forth. In addition, I was able to use a case study methodology for each and include the requirement for utilization of the stipend. In my case, levering on the chosen methodology, interviews and research across the intelligence community was anticipated, organized and presented which included visits to local and state-wide fusion centers, state government representatives/leaders in charge of information dissemination and so forth. Upon receipt of the application, NIU did a timely and thorough review and although I was not selected for the current year candidate pool, they were able to provide critical feedback surrounding the methodology, topic of choice and recommendations so that I would be able to update/edit my existing proposal and perhaps resubmit for the following year. Having said that, I would recommend anyone “thinking” of submitting to do so as it will be a very worthwhile and valuable experience. NIU’s fellows program is very competitive, yet a very worthwhile endeavor for those interested in researching common issues across the intelligence community.

References & Career Planning Tools 

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About The Author

Dr. Donna Day is a Manager at the Department of Defense, where she has been for more than 30 years. With a background in Information Assurance, Customer Engagement and Marketing, more recently she has been studying Cyber security Policy and Management at the University of Maryland, University College (UMUC). She earned her Doctor of Management, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Science Degree in Technology Management at UMUC and received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing at the University of Baltimore. Dr. Day is also an Adjunct Professor at Norwich University in Vermont, where she teaches Cyber security, Critical Infrastructure and Information Assurance courses to a myriad of students, worldwide, from across the intelligence community. A published author, Baltimore Ravens fan, and life-long learner, she enjoys writing, traveling, cooking, and most importantly, spending time with her family and friends.