Audrey Kuhnle, (class of 2022) Master of International Affairs candidate, discusses her experience at the Bush School. She is in the National Security & Diplomacy track.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Audrey Kuhnle. I’m currently a second year in the MIA program on the NS&D track. My concentrations are Intelligence and US Military Defense Policy and Grand Strategy. Before coming to the Bush School, I was at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, where I studied International Criminal Justice and had a minor in Poli Sci, like a lot of people that come here. I worked at the New York State Assembly, and I worked as a legislative aide there for a little bit, then I went over to a political nonprofit where I became a program manager and I ran a lot of the program and events there. And then I moved over to a public affairs lobbying firm, where I did a lot of foreign policy related issues and a lot of lobbying assistance for clients. So, a lot of PR work, a lot of fun research sometimes.
How would you describe your Bush School experience thus far? What are the top 3 reasons you love the Bush School?
For me, the main thing that I always point to when people are talking to me about coming to Bush is the academic rigor; there is so much support to intellectually push yourself here, and challenge yourself – not even just for yourself, but it’s a big push that what you’re going to do here is transferring out into the real world. So you do well here, you practice here, you get what you need to get done here, and you learn how to do it well – and not just well, probably the best. Then you transfer that into a job, and that’s for me probably the top thing about what I love about being here. And every single time someone’s like “why Bush,” that’s part of the reason. I get to practice what I want to do so that I don’t mess up when it’s really important. I get to get my errors out now.
What did you do in the summer between your first and second year? How did it supplement your education and/or career search?
I was at the State Department. I was in the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs, specifically in the trade control policy world, so I was working on military technology and classifying that for export controls. And a lot of that has to do with what arms control we have with people, so this year we just saw AUKUS go through, so nuclear submarine stuff used to be highly controlled, and now navigating new protocols in how to export and trade nuclear technology on submarines was the realm I was living in.
I currently work at State, in a different bureau right now, so I can backtrack a little. I think that experience in that bureau, I was like, “Alright, this is stuff that’s interesting to me, but because it’s the State Department there’s so many other roles and different things that you could do, so I’m currently working with a former Bush School student who is an FSO who is an original China officer, which is a new program that the State Department has going on, where I’m doing Chinese research on their business and trading, so stuff with Huawei and whatnot, and collecting that information and keeping track of it in a spreadsheet and doing some data work for them and then sending it off to the State Department.
What is a challenge you encountered related to your Bush School education up to this point and how did you overcome it?
The challenge of moving from New York to Texas. That was an interesting one, and there was definitely culture shock. But – and I don’t think anyone can understand this until you’re here – you can read about it, you can hear about it – but the community of Bush School and how that goes with A&M – you don’t feel alone when you’re here ever. And I really did think, moving from New York to Texas that I was going to feel alone, but there’s this amazing sense of community here that you constantly feel like you have someone to turn to or a place to go if you are feeling overwhelmed or x, y, and z on that day. So specifically with Bush, I did make friends, although in a Covid year, it was a little different, my friend groups were definitely smaller, but they were still supportive. It was not just a Bush School student, it’s someone who’s going to be your friend 10 years down the road that, who knows, you might be sharing an office with because you guys want to do the same thing.
What advice would you give to first-years?
I wish someone would have told me to hang out at school more. I’m gonna be honest, that’s the best way to meet people. The networking that you’re capable of here – take advantage of it. It’s the best thing. And it’s not networking for the sense of getting a job, it’s networking for support in your future life because, depending on the track that you’re on here, you’re going into a weird, weird world that not many people understand. If you’re going into the intelligence world, there’s only so many people that you can talk to about it and a lot of them are going to be your friends from here and the people that you’ve networked with here. And even if you’re not in that NS&D/ Intel track, it’s the same thing on the SA side, if you’re in education policy, if you’re in health policy, you’re gonna be in the same circles and knowing, ‘ok my specialty’s not this, but my friend does know this,’ it can really help me navigate whatever issue I’m having today. Your peers are here to help you, be it first year, second year, alum, incoming. You don’t know who’s around you until you surround yourself and immerse yourself with the place.