Gina Bennett is the instructor of Ethics Fitness Training.
Gina Bennett is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where she teaches Ethics in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the School of Foreign Service. She has taught hundreds of students in schools, government, and the business world. She is also an experienced member of the Intelligence Community with over 30 years of service as an analyst in the counterterrorism mission.
Gina is the Director of the Board of Girl Security, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that teaches and mentors young girls interested in national security fields. She is the author of two “National Security Mom” books, articles on counterterrorism, and is the subject of several documentaries and interviews about her groundbreaking analysis and role as a leading woman in the field.
Gina earned her bachelors degree at the University of Virginia and her masters as a distinguished graduate of the Marine Corps War College. You can find more information about Gina, her books, and career at nationalsecuritymom.com or www.girlsecurity.org/board.
In this “Meet Your Instructor” post we asked Gina to talk about how she got interested in ethics and why ethics are so important for your career.
Q: Why did you become an intelligence analyst?
A. In all honesty, being an intelligence analyst was not on my radar while I was completing my undergraduate degree at UVA. All I knew was that I did not want to move home after graduating, so I took the first available job in Washington, D.C., that I was able to secure. I was interested in foreign policy, so I found a paid “externship” at the Department of State. I was a GS-04 clerk/typist and spent my days filing and typing. It was a foot in the door to me, and I was happy. The director sat me down in her office one day and told me that I should go apply for a job in intelligence. As the daughter of a Navy dad, I did what I was told, and very soon afterward had a position as a terrorism watch officer in the 24-hour Intelligence Watch Office.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give young folks who want to build a great career in your field?
Do things first. Get unrelated jobs in unrelated places that have nothing to do with intelligence, national security, or D.C. No matter the skills and knowledge you gain or the network you build, you will find a way to leverage it in a career in intelligence.
Q: What got you so interested in ethics that you wound up teaching it to others?
I saw the 1945 movie The Picture of Dorian Gray when I was about 10, and it terrified me. So naturally, I read the book. Then I grew obsessed with the idea that every bad decision I made was leaving an imprint on my soul. Somehow that experience never left me.
When I was asked what kind of curriculum would be a “must-have” for students interested in the intelligence profession, my immediate response was “ethics.” The job challenges you, and the context will push you to the edges of right and wrong. If you do not have a desire to make ethical decisions, you will be tempted to do what is expedient and effective for the mission regardless of the long-term costs to the nation, the Constitution, and your integrity.
Q: How have you benefitted from teaching this subject?
I am constantly learning new ways that ethical frameworks are going to be pushed to their limits given rapid technological and innovative advancements against the backdrop of increasingly complex and integrated global challenges. I also think approaches to future ethical dilemmas, particularly in the security arenas, will be crafted by leaders whose values will have evolved based on their generational characteristics. And I think that is a very good thing, and I am happy to see it unfold in front of me in my students.
Q: How will people benefit from the skills they learn in your course?
I believe the skills students will gain will stick with them for life because they are so central to every type of decision-making. Applying a fitness training model takes the esoteric out of ethics and makes it widely practical and easily accessible. Can you imagine a decision that would not benefit from the engagement of more ethical people?