University at Albany

Q & A with Ben Spear, BA '10, MPA '12

If you had to condense your job description into an elevator pitch, how would it read?

Ben: I develop cyber security intelligence products that are distributed to the nation's state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments and the law enforcement community. Each day, I collect information from technical data and open source reports and analyze them for trends affecting SLTT governments. I also build relationships with our core constituency of fusion centers, serving as a subject matter expert on emerging cyber threats. Fusion centers, located in states and major urban areas (79 total), facilitate information sharing and intelligence analysis across disciplines at the federal and SLTT levels. Through a combination of research and communication with our core constituency, I am able to determine topics of value and develop intelligence products on those topics that will best serve their cyber security needs.

How did Rockefeller College prepare you for your career? How do you use what you learned every day?

Ben: Rockefeller College is where I refined my research and writing skills. The strong focus on clear and concise writing provided me with the necessary tools in drafting intelligence products, which are centered on delivering the "BLUF" or "bottom line up front." Classes in intelligence analysis, under Professor Steiner, and my work as an assistant, and later project coordinator, at the college's National Center for Security & Preparedness provided me with a background in homeland security that allows me to understand the threats we face and how to communicate those threats to our core constituency. They also helped me develop skills in limiting bias in my writing and identifying and evaluating sources.

Why did you choose Rockefeller College over other institutions?

Ben: I chose Rockefeller College because of its prime location in our state's capital, stellar reputation, and the affordability of a public education. I was torn between Rockefeller and another school that I had always wanted to attend that was more removed from the political world. I chose Rockefeller because it provided me an opportunity to be in the thick of things from day one and it was a lot cheaper. When it came time to pick a graduate school, Rockefeller again was an easy choice because of a scholarship from my undergraduate years that included graduate tuition. Today I can happily say I have no student loans, and Rockefeller has afforded me the best opportunities for advancement.

How did Rockefeller's location in New York's capital add to your experience as a student? Was its location advantageous over other regions or cities?

Ben: Rockefeller's location in Albany, capital of the Empire State, certainly had a positive impact on my educational experience and personal growth. As an undergraduate I had the opportunity to participate in the State Assembly Internship Program. This was a formative experience that helped me develop a lot of the communication skills I use today and provided a crash course in NYS politics. The program balances valuable real world work experience with a quality educational component. Albany is also nicely situated, with easy access to Boston, New York, and Montreal. That makes it easy to travel home on short notice, as well as, gain access to the rich historical and cultural experiences those cities offer.

In your position, are you interacting with colleagues who also earned their degrees from Rockefeller College?

Ben: A number of my coworkers graduated from Rockefeller College and I also work with intelligence analysts and management in other agencies who attended Rockefeller, some of whom were my classmates.

In what ways do you feel Rockefeller's faculty added to your experience, career opportunities, etc.?

Ben: The Rockefeller faculty is comprised of some of the most engaging people I've ever met. Since my first day freshman year I have been working with Rockefeller's amazing faculty and staff in one way or another. As an undergraduate, my work as a research assistant with Victor Asal allowed me to develop an interest in the field of homeland security, a prospect I hadn't even considered as I entered school. Meanwhile, Rey Koslowski pointed a way for me to merge my competing interests of homeland security and information technology into the emerging field of cybersecurity. It has only been through the relationships developed with many of the professors at Rockefeller that I have able to grow professionally and obtain a job in my chosen field, first at the National Center for Security and Preparedness, and again later at the Center for Internet Security.