During her CIB tenure, Tyra Bjorlo studied the role of women in militant Sunni Islamism. Soon after graduating from Coastal Carolina University (August 2019, summa cum laude) with a degree in Intelligence and National Security Studies, Tyra was awarded a prestigious internship to research al-Qaeda with the Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, DC. Internships with the AEI’s Critical Threats Project are considered some of the most competitive in the nation’s capital. The program is led by Frederick W. Kagan, former professor at the US Military Academy at West Point, who served as advisor to General David Petraeus in Afghanistan.
We caught up with Tyra (pictured) and asked her a few questions about her internship and the role that her CIB research at CCU had in equipping her to respond to the challenges of her new role in DC.
Q. Tell us about your internship. Who are you working for and what is your focus?
I am interning for the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute here in Washington, D.C. I conduct research and produce daily intelligence reports. My specific areas of research are West Africa and the al-Qaeda global network. The goal is to better understand the global Salafi-jihadi movement and forecast future trends.
Q. How does this internship connect with your prior research at CCU?
My prior research was on the proliferation of the role of women in Salafi-jihadist groups. I believe I landed this internship because of my prior in-depth research at CCU. Not only did I gain subject-matter expertise, but I also acquired a very deep understanding of Salafi-jihadist groups that I would not have without the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) and my classes at CCU.
Q. How did your work with CIB prepare you for what you will be doing in DC?
When I interviewed for my internship, I was asked to describe a research question that I worked to answer, what methods I used to answer it, and what my working hypotheses and conclusions were. CIB more than prepared me for my interview. Not only was the topic I researched relevant to the internship, but I knew how to conduct research and issue forecasts. The CIB experience, in particular, provided me with the necessary skills and ultimately made it easy for me to compete for this internship with students from all over Europe and Ivy League colleges.
Q. What is your advice for incoming CIB members?
My advice for current and incoming CIB members is to take advantage of all the opportunities that CIB offers and become a leader within the organization. I was a CIB Executive, Head of the Africa Desk, and Head of the Transnational Issues Desk. Take initiative and always go with your gut. If you feel an intelligence-related issue is important, then run with it. Lastly, study a topic really in-depth throughout your undergraduate career at CCU. It will not only prepare you for the Capstone course, but it will make you feel really confident (and it looks great on a resume)!