The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences


Grace Anderson '20

Grace Anderson '20 interns at the Critical Threats Project (CTP) during the 2019 summer term. 

Article Type 

Grace Anderson '20 interned at the Critical Threats Project (CTP) during the 2019 summer term. 

This summer, I worked at the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute as a research intern. The Critical Threats Project focuses on open-source intelligence research and analysis of national security issues, with particular focus on Iran and al Qaeda. At CTP, I worked on the al Qaeda team and focused on al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa. My daily tasks consisted of open-source research and analysis terrorism and political activity in the Horn. I also published a daily security brief, conducted research for a publication on how al Shabaab develops popular support, and performed human network analysis of al Shabaab’s leadership.

I had an overwhelmingly positive experience interning at CTP. One of the components of the program I appreciated the most was the amount of investment in interns from supervisors at every level of the organization— from the fellow in charge of the entire program to the research analyst that managed me. I received constructive criticism on my writing and ideas multiple times a day. While the vigilance and involvement of my supervisors was initially overwhelming, I found that it helped me to grow and improve my skills rapidly. The supervisors’ willingness to engage with interns also reflected the fact that they genuinely valued interns’ opinions and ideas, which made my work each day feel purposeful. I found that engagement at all levels of the organization helped me improve as a writer, thinker and speaker and also made me feel like a valued member of the team.

A particularly important highlight of my experience this summer was the opportunity to work on a longer-term research project on al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab. I conducted research on the means and methods al Shabaab utilizes to cultivate popular support in local communities for a publication. Working on this project helped me to learn about how to frame and plan a larger research project. I also learned how to pull together large amounts of data in order to make concrete claims about how the world functions, or in this case how al Qaeda operates. It was also a great learning experience in the importance of precision of language and writing succinctly.

From an academic perspective, I found I enjoyed learning Arabic words or phrases from my fellow interns. Because of this, I am planning to take Arabic classes this year and am thinking of spending a year abroad next year to further my language skills. Most importantly, I loved the daily puzzle solving and forecasting elements of my job, a fact which I think solidified my interest in intelligence careers. Finally, I would like to thank the Rockefeller Center Internship Program. 

The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences