In this interview, Prof. John Sano discusses his course on Writing for National Security Professionals (IWP 650, 2 credits), which will be offered this summer. Prof. Sano is Former Deputy Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service.
What do you cover in your course?
We cover the fundamentals, as well as the nuances, of writing in the intelligence, foreign policy and national security arenas within the U.S. government. Through a series of exercises and discussions, this course is designed both to familiarize students with the various types of formats they will likely encounter in these arenas as well as to improve their overall writing skills.
What makes your course unique?
We first analyze what constitutes “good writing,” then through both in-class and assigned exercises — create, organize, edit and finalize various government-specific finished written pieces. This course emphasizes both in-depth analysis of the various types of written products that are predominant in the national security environment, as well as practice, practice, practice!
Is one likely to find such a course at an institution other than IWP?
While other schools occasionally offer limited skills courses that may touch upon writing, particularly as a remedial requirement, few, if any, provide a course that concentrates specifically on the national security field and the unique requirements necessary to be a successful writer in this environment.
What makes your course useful to students?
The differences between academic writing and writing for the national security audience can be dramatic. Particularly within the government, as well as in virtually any other career field, you are known by how well you write. This course will provide those students who are interested in these challenging careers an opportunity to practice first hand the creation and refinement of the majority of those formats that they are most likely to encounter throughout their chosen careers.