“I am so appreciative of your generosity, and I would like to thank you so much for making this award possible. It’s a great honor that you selected me for this award, and I will not disappoint you.”
-Aubrey Hodges to our alumni donors
IWP M.A. candidate Aubrey Hodges has been awarded the 2023 IWP Alumni Scholarship.
Aubrey is a third-year candidate in IWP’s M.A. in Strategic Intelligence Studies program. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2016 with dual bachelor’s degrees in Homeland Security and History. Initially setting out to try to become a historian or lawyer, or to do something in homeland security, Aubrey didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do until he began following the news in December 2013 of the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s subsequent seizures of Crimea and Donbas.
After seeking advice from his mother, he sidelined his original aspirations and began taking classes in Russian language, politics, history, and U.S. national security and foreign policy. Concurrently, he took courses in Chinese and Middle Eastern history. Aubrey immersed himself in all aspects that VCU could offer relating to his interests.
In 2015, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) visited VCU. It hosted an intelligence analyst competition for eligible students where Aubrey was selected to participate on a team with other students, compete against other teams, sift through piles of information with them to assess a mock-international scenario accurately, and then brief CIA analyst judges who would grade them on how well everything was done. Aubrey was greatly inspired by the analysts-turned-judges’ professionalism and dedication to the mission. He believed that one day, he might have a fulfilling career such as theirs.
Due to his studies and activities, he became increasingly interested in international politics, intelligence, and foreign policy and dreamed of a career in any of these areas.
After graduating, Aubrey spent the first three and a half years out of college outside of his field. He worked first at Colonial Williamsburg as a costumed historical interpreter, then as a seafood warehouse associate. He learned much about himself in these positions and never let the setbacks deter him from his ultimate goal. He maintained his Russian language skills, kept up with the news and books, and continued applying to any place he could.
Eventually, an old classmate introduced him to a previous contract employer who was looking to fill his role as a replacement. With this employer, Aubrey began learning the fundamental concepts of American foreign military sales (FMS), arms exports, and international military training. As part of the team on that contract, Aubrey worked with the litigation of pre-revolutionary Iranian foreign military sales.
Around this time, he applied to IWP, realizing he didn’t want to sideline what he had set out for from VCU and that to compete for those types of jobs in Washington, D.C., he needed a master’s degree.
Meanwhile, Aubrey continued his work in foreign military sales, moving on to a position supporting the active execution and maintenance of the Navy’s light and heavy-weight torpedo foreign military sales programs. Staying within the FMS and Security Cooperation community, Aubrey now works as a senior consultant (contractor program analyst) supporting the mission of civilian and military clients at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
While Aubrey can’t forecast where he will be after IWP, he knows life can happen unexpectedly (as he experienced in the years before breaking into contracting). He understands the value of a degree from IWP, where it can lead him, and how hard work can reflect that. Because of this, he maintains a desire to enter government service one day; whether that will be in any of the three areas IWP emphasizes (national security, international affairs, and intelligence), he leaves up to God.
He has focused many of the research papers in his classes on Russian foreign policy and U.S. warning intelligence, the Middle East, and post-Soviet countries. He is a student ambassador who helps new students get acclimatized with the school and attends open houses to share his experiences with prospective students. He is also the current chapter president of the Alexander Hamilton Society at IWP.