KU students gathering valuable intel for US Defense Department

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Kara Fort feels a bit more pressure to ace a presentation this semester at the University of Kansas.

She isn’t looking to boost her GPA. She’s determined to make sure her research proves valuable to the U.S. Defense Department.

“It’s a little overwhelming just to realize that I’m 20 years old and making a product that’s going to be used by the military,” the KU junior said. “But it’s also a testament to the strength of our university and of this program.”

It’s part of the Graduate Military Program at KU that gives undergrads the opportunity to present vital info to Army intelligence.

“Anything from environmental, security, medical issues and terror threats,” said Mike Denning, a retired Marine colonel who oversees the KU students.

Sophomore Harrison Manlove has been assessing threats for U.S. personnel in Nigeria.

While many would assume terror groups like ISIS or Boko Haram are the top threat, Manlove’s research found something even more violent: bloody clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria sparked by climate change.

“So climate change is a driver of this instability because it’s driving these herders, who need land, onto farmers who also need the land,” Manlove said. “The farmer-herder violence is something that whoever gets deployed to Nigeria needs to know about.”

It's heavy duty coursework for these students aiming for a career in the intelligence community.

“I’ve got a 10-year-old little boy who is pretty convinced that I’m going to be a secret agent,” junior Ashley Eshnaur said.

They're not secret agents — at least not yet.

Students in the school’s Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence can graduate with a certificate in Intelligence and National Security Studies.

But they`re proud knowing they`re already making global hot spots safer for Americans stationed overseas.

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