Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2022


By Deborah W. Morton

For once in Lindy Smart’s life, her mastery of intelligence analysis would fail her. Standing at the crossroads of perhaps the most important decision of her life, she was forced to weigh the prospect of relinquishing her “dream job” in exchange for a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Certainly, she could do a deep dive into the compelling aspects of each option or, like those of us less skilled in intelligence analysis, make a list of pros and cons. In the end, it would not be the mind, but the heart, that informed her choice. On May 2, 37-year-old Lindy Smart left Minneapolis and what can only be described as a “meteoric” ascent at Target Corp. as director of competitive intelligence, to become executive director of the Intelligence Studies Department within the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies & Applied Sciences at her alma mater. “I felt drawn to come back because of my connection with the students,” she said. “I’ve mentored many Mercyhurst students, but to be able to impact their lives more directly through my experience, both in going through the Mercyhurst intelligence program and in what I was able to build in my career as a result, I felt like it would be the right move at the right time.” As a product of what is largely regarded as the first and among the largest programs of its kind in academia, Smart returns to the Intelligence Studies Department just in time to celebrate its 30th anniversary. In doing so, she becomes the first female and the first alum to lead the program. She summed it up this way: “As a first-generation college grad, this is a moment of great pride. As an Erie native, this is a homecoming. As an alum—earning my two-year, four-year, and master’s degrees all here at Mercyhurst—this is an honor. And as a successor to incredible leaders and passionate professionals who came before me, this is a privilege.” Smart’s career with Target began in 2011, soon after earning her master’s degree in Applied Intelligence from Mercyhurst. As a corporate security analyst for the Fortune 500 behemoth, she distinguished herself by establishing Target’s omnichannel fraud investigations program and became known across the industry as a subject matter expert for omnichannel and mobile gift card fraud. By 2018, at the age of 33, she was named director of competitive intelligence for the Minneapolis-based retailer, where she was responsible for overseeing intelligence operations affecting its 1,926 U.S. stores. In returning to her alma mater, Smart represents a manifestation of Mercyhurst’s commitment to providing multiple pathways to learning. She began her Mercyhurst career at its former North East campus where she earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice in 2004. She then worked with the Barber National Institute’s group homes program. From 2006 to 2009, she was at the Erie campus where she focused her studies on the liberal arts, earning a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. During that time, she developed a love for literary analysis, identifying themes, and crafting arguments. Witnessing that passion and skill set, professors guided her toward Intelligence Studies, where from 2009 to 2011, she pursued her master’s degree in Applied Intelligence, earning the coveted Sister Eustace Taylor Graduate Student Award. Former Mercyhurst Intelligence Studies Professor Kris Wheaton, J.D., said Smart was a top student in the university’s intel program, and he has followed her career ever since.

“I want to be part of the evolution

“Target has done a huge turnaround since Lindy started her career with them,” Wheaton said. “A lot of their success has to do with their keen understanding of the competitive marketplace, and much of that has coincided with Lindy’s time there.” Smart’s leadership marks a new dawn for the Ridge College’s intel program that originated in 1992 with a national security emphasis, which grew exponentially post 9/11. Today, a growing number of the university’s intelligence studies majors are seeking careers in competitive intelligence with the goal of working in the private sector, much like Smart.

of intelligence at Mercyhurst, and be at the forefront of shaping it.” -Lindy Smart ‘11

Despite the emergence of more and more intelligence programs at U.S. universities, Smart said Mercyhurst is still the premier institution in that discipline and is in an ideal position to develop the skill sets for the growing demand in competitive intelligence.


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