Katherine Weary ‘01 worked as a National Security Agency (NSA) analyst before coming to teach in the Intelligence Studies program at the Bush School. Her course offerings include Analytic Tradecraft, Advanced Analytic Tradecraft, and Briefing Tradecraft. In addition, Weary runs a capstone each spring.
What research project do you currently have underway?
Ever since the spring of 2020, I have been looking into disinformation—how it was being used abroad and against the American public in and around COVID, for example. I started putting together a class on disinformation. I am doing a directed study this semester with a student who’s trying out the syllabus. We’re basically going through case studies on Russian disinformation to identify tradecraft tools and tactics that Russia consistently used in each case, which would help to identify patterns of Russian disinformation. Further, this could be used to anticipate where Russia will go next and what tools and tactics might be used.
What do you like most about working at the Bush School?
Being surrounded by others who also believe in the nobility and importance of public service is what I like most about the Bush School. There is a mission that brings us all together here, and that is helping to prepare those who will ultimately serve our country.
Leaving the private, classified, and closed world of the intelligence community and stepping into an unclassified and open environment of teaching was a difficult transition. I am not sure I would have been very comfortable making that transition anywhere other than the Bush School.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching?
My favorite aspect of teaching is that electricity that only happens in the classroom when you are challenging students’ ways of thinking, guiding them to become critical thinkers, and then seeing the transformation. You cannot always anticipate what’s going to happen in the classroom. The students are challenging, the questions that they ask are probing, and that keeps me learning.
What did you do prior to coming here and how does that translate to the way you pursue your teaching and research now?
When I was first asked to come here and teach, I knew I could not teach what I had done for a living in the intelligence community. I did find it somewhat challenging to come up with coursework that I thought would be relevant to the students, and I didn’t know if it would be interesting to them until I got into that first classroom in the spring of 2017. I ended up stripping away all of the classified aspects of my previous job and tried to get to the root of what an analyst functionally does. That’s when I came up with my basic course on analysis, which gets into critical thinking, the psychology of analysis, and a step-by-step approach to analysis. When you strip away all of that classified material, analysis is analysis.
What research or teaching accomplishment are you most proud of?
I would say my capstones. I’m most proud of their final products. The quality of work and professionalism that is displayed by our students when they’re briefing and providing the written products to the agency is just phenomenal. I’m so proud of the work that we have done, not only representing the Bush School and Texas A&M but also just the growth that I see in my teams during that period of time.
One thing that I am personally proud of is winning teaching awards in 2020 and 2021. They really meant a lot to me because it was a challenging time for everyone. Maintaining the quality of teaching and information I wanted to convey to the students in this new environment was really challenging. I was really grateful for receiving those awards.
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
The environment that is created in the classroom when people are confident and comfortable speaking and that exchange of ideas, I just love. That environment is epitomized in my capstones. I see the capstones as an educational experience of the Bush School. I don’t see them as just running a team of analysts and wanting to get a great product at the end. I really care a lot about the analytic process, which I hope my team members learn, but also about how to collaborate and grow professionally with respect.
I never know exactly how it’s going to go with my teams, but I frequently find myself pushing up my sleeves and jumping into the analysis with them. Sometimes it’s better to show rather than try to explain. There’s no better illustration of application-based learning than the capstones.