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Jonathan Earles (’19): Foreign Affairs Officer at the Department of State

Jonathan Earles (’19) came to IWP with professional experience in law enforcement and intelligence, and he appreciated taking classes with faculty members who had done what they teach. After “doors were opened” for him at IWP, Jonathan joined the State Department, where he is currently serving as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. He received a Certificate in Counterintelligence from IWP in 2019.

Below, he discusses his experience with IWP.

Please tell us about your current work.

I work in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Office of Global Programs and Policy on the Drug Supply Reduction Team at the Department of State. My work covers the whole globe, and we work on a variety of subjects. Currently, I’m working on a project about narcotics, terrorist funding, and anti-money laundering. My team also works with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol World Customs Organization and their Canine Program. They work to improve the canine infrastructures of countries dealing with cross-border trafficking. We also cover toxic adulterants for the cutting agents of drugs. For example, if someone has an overdose and has a specific symptom, we can detect what it’s cut with and then submit public health alerts about it.

How did you get this job?

I started as a Pathways intern in the Executive Secretary Office for Executive Technology (ExecTech) in February 2019. I was on the same floor as a few other IWPers! ExecTech is the IT shop on the 7th floor. It was great exposure to what happens at State, and I got to interact with those who lead the Department. I got to witness everything that happened on “Mahogany Row” every day while doing hands-on IT work.

I stayed with ExecTech as a Pathways intern until I completed my hours and degree, and then they converted me to a permanent position in the same office. I finished my certificate at IWP in August 2019 and started that summer a master’s at Albany Law School in Legal Studies in Cyber Security and Data Privacy. After I started my permanent position, I was put on a detail to INL.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Originally, I’m from the Florida Panhandle and received my bachelor’s from Florida State University. I was on a contract with the 7th Special Forces Group and moved up to Reston, VA working for Babel Street. There, I was the Assistant Director for Operations and Analysis, doing dark web intelligence. I then started working for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), first in the 5th District then in the Reserves, while wrapping up my final Florida State classes online. I broke my foot in a foot chase, so I was detailed to the MPD Analysis Center for recovery and was looking online for graduate programs in the D.C. area focusing on national security. I got in touch with the IWP admissions team, who connected me with IWP’s Career Services Director Derrick Dortch, who happened to also be an MPD Reservist. Once we were connected – doors were opened. Derrick and I are like family now.

I have found a lot of overlap between my career and school, both while at IWP and now.

How did your background help prepare you for IWP and working at the State Department?

I have found a lot of overlap between my career and school, both while at IWP and now. I did a directed study with Professor Tsagronis that related to the work I did with the 7th Special Forces Group on one of their contracts at Eglin Air Force Base, FL. This project was a personal interest of mine. I researched the Joint Special Operations Command and the Special Activities Division at the CIA.

I also took classes with Professor Quattrocki and Professor Glancy that directly related to the work I’ve done at State Department. It’s great being taught by people with professional experience, especially because I had professional experience too. I know how much it can add to the class. In my previous job, I’ve administered Narcan and saw how it affected a person overdosing, and this has been useful in my work at INL. Having a professional background like this is important, so I liked being taught by professors knowing they’ve done work in the area that they’re teaching – it pays dividends.

What was your time like at IWP?

I loved the small class size and ability to get to know people, which I think is important at the master’s education level. From open office hours of the professors to the events put on by the school, IWP provides an intimate setting that can open doors for you. Professors care about your education and about you as a person. I appreciated the directed study opportunity I got to do with Professor Tsagronis, where I gave him a laundry list of ideas that he happily supported and talked me through.

IWP’s campus is also great. The location is in the middle of D.C. and close to everything. On campus, you’ll find that IWP’s library is not your average library, in a good way. Students get an upper hand on research due to the access to hard-to-find books. The closest thing I’ve come to finding a library equivalent to IWP’s would probably be the library at the State Department.

All the events IWP had after hours, like the Christmas party, made it great for interactions, and it was fun to be in the mansion itself. It makes you sit back and realize how neat IWP really is and how powerful of a school it is for its size.

Professors care about your education and about you as a person.

Do you have a story that encapsulates your IWP experience?

In Fall 2018, I was taking Professor Glancy’s class Foreign Propaganda, Perceptions and Policy and was able to connect with the Polish Military Fellows. My Godfather is Hungarian, so I was able to relate to the Polish-Hungarian relationship, and we hit it off. I got to hear their views on current and historical Polish affairs, as well as their perspectives on the U.S.-Polish relationship. It really showed me that IWP has some great connections, especially for international affairs. It’s incredible for students to have access to talk with diplomats from all over the world. The Polish Fellows and I had some great conversations during after-hours events, and those were a highlight of my IWP career.

Do you have advice for IWP students?

If you want to go into the Intelligence Community, then you should take as many of Professor Quattrocki’s classes as possible because of his background and his up-to-date content. It is great preparation for the IC. I also recommend doing a directed study with Professor Tsagronis because he encourages creativity and lets you dictate the direction. Professor Tsagronis also is a part of the Oxford Program, which I never got to do, but think it’s an amazing opportunity for students.

I also recommend students interested in intelligence careers to look at local or state options. They’re just as high speed, if not higher than the federal side. You’ll still get your clearance and potentially even higher pay. It can be good leverage to get into government work too. But do not worry if you haven’t found a federal intelligence job yet. Local and state positions are just as important and interesting.

What does the future hold for you?

I would love to get another degree, maybe on weapons of mass destruction or something in that area. Now that we’re starting to go back into the office, I’ll be traveling more, so I’m hoping to do a hybrid degree program with a combination of in-person and virtual classes.

I plan to stay at the State Department for the foreseeable future too. There is the Mustang program where civil servants who have worked for three years at State can laterally transfer to the Foreign Service. Come February 2022, I’ll have finished three years at State so I’m going to shoot for it then. I’ve been fortunate that in my current position, I’ve been able to complete lots of training and talk with Foreign Service Officers and get to know that side of the Department. I just finished a week-long Foreign Affairs Counter Threat training and was able to speak with a variety of government employees who have lived and worked overseas.

I would love to have the opportunity to work abroad. With my police background, the goal would be to work for Diplomatic Security in some capacity.

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