Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2022

The start of a new Intelligence Studies academic program is announced in The Merciad in April 1992.

CELEBRATING 30 YEARS The rise of Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst 1992-2022 By Deborah W. Morton & Bryan Colvin

As Mercyhurst University celebrates the 30th year of its Intelligence Studies Program, we take a look back at its storied history, its global reputation, and the many lives it has influenced over the last three decades. This is a condensed version of the complete history housed in the university archives. VISIONARY LEADERSHIP Over the years, two visionary leaders emerged to take the program from its modest beginnings in the basement of the university’s library to a model of excellence and international renown named after former Pennsylvania Governor and the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Thomas J. Ridge. Those individuals are Robert J. Heibel and James G. Breckenridge. In 1987, Erie native Bob Heibel retired from the FBI as deputy chief of counterterrorism. In that role, he saw a need. College graduates schooled in disciplines like political science and history came to D.C. to fill analyst roles but, for all their academic pedigrees, they weren’t ready. They had to be trained. Heibel wanted an analyst “who could hit the ground running.” How fortuitous, many would later say, when you consider the critical need for analysts that followed 9/11. Heibel came to Mercyhurst to sell his vision and, in 1992, the university authorized the Research/Intelligence Analyst Program (RIAP), which Heibel would lead for 12 years. It marked a milestone for both the institution and the field of intelligence. RIAP was the first intelligence degree program of its kind in the United States and, as a concentration in the History Department, it capitalized largely on the university’s liberal

arts curriculum. Today, there are an estimated 100 universities offering programs in intelligence or what are often called security studies. THE EARLY YEARS It was becoming increasingly clear—first with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and then with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—that the demand for well-trained analysts was continuing to grow as was interest from prospective students. Students could choose among three focuses: National Security, Law Enforcement, and Competitive (Business) Intelligence. In 1995, Heibel founded the Center for Information Research, Analysis and Training (CIRAT), which provided—and continues to provide— Intelligence Studies students with hands-on analytic experience through paid contractual employment. He led that initiative for 16 years and later played a central role in developing the Institute for Intelligence Studies, which provides research and analysis products to clients such as the Department of State, the European Union, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble. MILESTONES IN GROWTH & REPUTATION In 2004, Mercyhurst created a Department of Intelligence Studies that included a bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Studies and a new M.S. in Applied Intelligence. It also marked the beginning of the Mercyhurst- led International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE), an organization dedicated to advancing the intelligence profession.


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