From watching “Criminal Minds” to participating in a counterterrorism master’s program in Washington, D.C., the University of Nebraska–Lincoln helped Emily Stratmoen realize her dream of working with international crime.
“I knew what I wanted to do since the eighth grade,” Stratmoen said. “I knew I wanted to go into criminal justice. At first, I wanted to be like Spencer Reid from ‘Criminal Minds,’ but it has evolved since.”
Hailing from Brookings, South Dakota, Stratmoen attributes her change in course to the professors in the university’s national security studies minor program. And now, as the undergraduate prepares to graduate from Nebraska U on Aug. 13, she’s planning to pursue her goal of being a counterthreat analyst by earning her master’s degree in counterterrorism and homeland security policy at American University in Washington, D.C.
“The second class I took for the minor, writing and briefing with professor Bettina Roundey, really got me interested in national security,” Stratmoen said. “We followed a topic the entire semester, and then we practiced writing different portions of briefs and it evolved over the entire semester. So, in the end, you had a full panel of briefs that you know, if you were in that kind of a job, would be presented to the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State.”
As a member of the pre-law program, Stratmoen was initially interested in working with international law and crime.
“International crime is a very big issue in today’s world, especially with terrorism and extremism,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in how these groups function and how they carry out these attacks.”
Through a course for her major, Stratmoen wrote a pair of deep-dive papers on how the different groups function. The project fueled her interest in the field.
“After taking that class I was looking into what I could do next since I’m graduating in three years,” she said. “I wanted to go into something that combined my interest in international affairs with national security and protecting the country. I found this program that could lead to where I want to be, which is sitting in the office doing all of the reading, writing, intel and research. I want to be the one who’s putting the pieces together and writing a brief to alert everyone who needs to know about these threats.”
Stratmoen discovered these interests not only through coursework but also through caring professors.
“There are some professors that I find to be really inspiring and who really helped me a lot,” she said. “I give all the credit to Bettina because she was the one who kind of understood my passion for national security. She was always willing to help regardless if you were out with COVID or something like that, you could always just Zoom with her and she always gave super helpful feedback on my work.”
Professor Julia McQuillian also encouraged Stratmoen along the way, and pushed her towards graduate school.
“She was absolutely the most encouraging professor I’ve had,” Stratmoen said. “She’s always rooting for you and asking how she can help. She cared for all of her students and even with such a big school and so many students. She even wrote a letter of recommendation for me for graduate school applications.”
As she prepares for the transition to American University this fall, Stratmoen is looking forward to the opportunities that being in the heart of Washington will provide. One of them includes a new gig — serving in a full-time position as a federal contractor working for the U.S. Marshals Service.
“There is no better place to study because I’m surrounded by all of the agencies,” she said. “Homeland Security is around the corner from my school. I think the best part about the program though, which is a lot why I chose to go there is the faculty are teaching on the side, but they’re working in their careers during the day. The director of my program still works for the FBI. The program is set up to where they make your classes so applicable and you’re gaining experience right away.”
While looking forward to next steps, Stratmoen will remain connected to Lincoln.
“It will always be home to me,” she said.
Stratmoen attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln because of its community, atmosphere and school spirit. She worked to be involved and was active across campus through involvements in Dance Marathon, club hockey, pre-law club, Greek life and more.
“I think overall my experience at UNL has stemmed from the people,” she said. “Through a lot of late nights and stressful days I surrounded myself with a really good group of people and I kept myself busy but it was still manageable.”
As she moves forward, Stratmoen is open to whatever the future may hold, whether that’s a job opportunity in Washington or even attending law school.
“If I had gone anywhere else, I don’t think it would have been the same for me,” she said. “And I wouldn’t be going into grad school because I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to really find my niche within the national security sector because there are only like three or four schools in the country that have this type of minor. The whole college part was great, but being able to find what I really enjoy put the cherry on top.”