16 May 2018

Francesca Reece, third-year Plan II and Government double major and Strauss Center Brumley Scholar, took a look over her academic career with us recently. Read on to discover what led her to global policy/national security, how her academic areas of interest have developed, and highlights in her time at UT:

Strauss Center: How do you think being a double major in Plan II and Government has helped you develop as a student?

Francesca: "Plan II is such a valuable program for teaching critical thinking. It claims to be interdisciplinary, and it certainly is. I am now able to make valuable connections between subjects as disparate-seeming as physics and philosophy, and have grown as a learner and thinker because of that insight. The wide-ranging nature of Plan II has coupled nicely with my studies in Government, which have focused more on the hard facts of political science and history. Though I am specializing in a topic in that major, I am able to cross-reference a lot of the material from my other classes and present a new perspective on any given subject. I love both majors."

Can you highlight some particular instances over your career at UT that have increased your understanding of global security issues?

"Events that spring to mind are all Clements Center Coffee Hours. Every other Friday each semester, students who have indicated an interest in national and international security gather to hear about a topic the student-discussion leader for that week has chosen. As a result, I have learned so much about topics such as state security in Iran and U.S. military missions abroad. These experiences are so valuable because I am gain a better understanding of global security issues from students who are passionate, knowledgeable and informed enough about the topic to want to share it with other like them. It's very rewarding."

What are some specific international security issues you’re interested in, and what do you think is vital for the natsec/intel community to do in order to better understand how to combat them?

"My main region of interest is Latin America. U.S. policy towards Latin America is not particularly a hot topic at this point nor one for which expertise is very marketable. However, Latin America is of critical strategic importance for the U.S. and should be remembered. I believe it is critical for the intel community to especially prioritize our relationship with Cuba going forward. Cuba is at a critical point in its history since the revolution with its recent transfer of power.

With Russia and China both increasing their investment and trade relations with Cuba, we risk losing a valuable opportunity to make the first concrete changes to our relationship with the island since the trade embargo was first put in place. We must understand why our policies have not been effective and develop an informed way to change them for the better."

How has being an Undergraduate Fellow with the Clements Center benefited your professional development?

"The Clements Center is what allowed me to discover that national security is my career area of interest. Coming into college I knew I was interested in public service and would likely one day work for the government. However, I had no idea in what capacity. I joined the undergraduate fellows program and was immediately exposed to top officials and academics working in the natsec field. I haven't looked back! I am so excited to know where my talents lead me. So many undergraduates don't get that at all."

Back in high school as an IB student, what specific events in History of the Americas led to your interest in global policy?

"The important part of the course "History of the Americas" is the "Americas" part. Through that International Baccalaureate course I was exposed for the first time to Latin American culture and politics and that region's interaction and history with the U.S. This sparked an early interest in global security and policy. It certainly helped that my teacher served in the military for many years and was primarily stationed in Latin America. His insight was so interesting and fed my love of learning for this subject."

Thank you Francesca!