The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has launched its first Signature School Program at The University of New Mexico. During a speech at UNM on Nov. 9 about future intelligence and security challenges, CIA Director John O. Brennan announced the new program designed to provide more opportunities for UNM students. 

Brennan emphasized that a diverse and talented workforce is critical to the success of the CIA’s global mission. He said the program will deepen cooperation between the Agency and UNM and result in more opportunities for students and faculty to engage Agency officers and learn about employment opportunities.

Brennan told the crowd of nearly 400 that the Agency needs exceptional employees with a broad range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, language expertise, and educational and life experiences to ensure the diversity of thought to operate effectively worldwide.

 “Improving diversity at CIA is not simply a moral imperative — it is mission imperative,” Brennan said. 

Collaboration and benefits through the Signature School Program
Emile Nakhleh, director of UNM’s Global and National Security Policy Institute, worked with the CIA to invite Brennan to campus and to create the new program. UNM’s GNSPI is an interdisciplinary educational and research program that addresses both global and national security issues and consists of established disciplines and programs related to national and global security at UNM. It involves collaborative research with federal agencies and companies and is focused on educating future leaders, personnel from companies and laboratories, as well as enhancing graduates’ competitive edge in the job market. 

CIA Director John Brennan Speech
CIA Director John Brennan gives a speech to faculty, staff and students during a visit to UNM to announce the CIA's new Signature School Program.

"The CIA-UNM Signature School Program, the first of its kind in the nation, rests on two important factors: the rich academic programs at UNM across disciplines and fields of study, and the diversity of UNM students,” said Emile Nakhleh, Director of UNM’s Global and National Security Policy Institute. “It's win-win for our students and faculty because the program will strengthen the students' competitive edge in their search for careers in the federal government and in global and national companies and organizations.

Affiliated with the GNSPI, UNM has a successful Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (IC-CAE) program. During the visit DCIA Brennan meet with a number of UNM National Security Studies Program (NSSP) scholars representing the IC-CAE program at UNM. Through the NSSP UNM students have obtained internships and positions in a number of global and national security agencies.

 "UNM offers a rich tradition of diversity,” said Frank Gilfeather, Director of UNM's IC-CAE. Besides cultural and ethnic diversity, UNM offers the federal workforce geographic diversity." The Signature School Program will work closely with NSSP and with UNM's Career Services, who provide key support for UNM students seeking career opportunities such as the new program offers.

The CIA and UNM are developing cooperative activities through the Signature School Program, which will benefit both institutions. Included are a number of real and potential direct benefits to UNM students and academic programs. Some of the collaborative activities already exist and are expected to increase over time.

As part of the Signature School Program:

  • The CIA will provide professionals for career advising during regular campus visits. Students appreciate such advice, especially in a non-recruiting environment, from Agency personnel as they consider job options in advance of a recruiting meeting.
  • UNM students will have opportunities to engage in problem solving simulations and exercises involving critical thinking from professional CIA analysts and personnel. These exercises include illustrating analytic techniques, which apply to realistic analytic problems and provide insights into key tasks of the Intelligence Community.
  • CIA analysts, with special knowledge and expertise, and UNM faculty will develop programs designed to support research projects in certain courses, including jointly selecting relevant global and national security problems as a class project or as team projects and then meeting with the analysts several times, either in person or remotely, to assess progress.
  • CIA professionals will assist in preparing students to develop realistic written and oral briefings for presentation in courses, meetings, and regional and national conferences.

This initiative builds on Director Brennan’ commitment to strengthening diversity and inclusion at the Agency. In 2014, Brennan commissioned the Diversity in Leadership Study (DLS) to examine factors limiting diversity in CIA senior leadership. CIA publicly released the DLS report in June 2015 and last month published an update on the study’s implementation. Both reports -- as well as the CIA Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for 2016-2019 -- are available at

CIA Director and UNM Students
CIA Director John Brennan, far right, visits with UNM students listening to their concerns.