New Beginnings: How an Investment in an International Security Master’s Degree Opens Doors


“If you want to make a career move into the security field, this program is the way to go,” said Rebecca Ames.

Some people think it’s impossible to juggle a full-time job, a part-time school schedule, and a research fellowship. Because of her hard work and dedication, Ames is living proof it is possible. The Master’s in International Security student at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University has used her degree to turn her career around in a big way.

Ames started her career in information technology, but her true passion was international relations, grand strategy, and reducing the costs and risks of conflict. Looking back on her studies in political science and international affairs at Boise State University, Ames decided to pursue a master’s degree that combined her interest in public service and global security. This led her to the Arlington, Va.-based Schar School—recently ranked as one of the best security studies schools in the country, earning the coveted No. 2 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 rankings in homeland security focused programs.

Since beginning her graduate studies, Ames changed jobs, moving from a consulting position with the Department of Veterans Affairs to joining a prestigious management consulting firm that works with the Department of Homeland Security.

“Because I had ‘Master’s in International Security’ on my resume, I was able to get a job consulting for DHS while still in school,” she said. “My classes overlap with work all the time, and I am able to communicate more effectively with DHS officials because of what I learned in school.”

Highlighting how her studies have benefitted her career, Ames described a conversation with a DHS headquarters.  

“I told him I needed to run to class at the Schar School,” she said. “I mentioned I was studying international security at [the Schar School], and he paused our work conversation to emphatically say ‘That’s a great program—I mean, a really great program.’”

Ames participated in an independent study paper with John Gordon, Schar School adjunct professor and senior researcher at the global policy think tank RAND Corporation.

“Rebecca is an example of an exceptional student who came into this program with little military knowledge, and despite a very steep learning curve, is leaving the program well-versed in the language of national security,” said Gordon.

As a student fellow at the Schar School’s Center for Security Policy Studies (CSPS), led by Master’s in International Security program director Ellen Laipson, Ames has had the opportunity to create and execute crisis simulations for students and faculty. “[The Center for Security Policy Studies] events are really geared to get students involved,” she said. “Members of the community, faculty, and students are able to get incredible exposure to people in the field that they otherwise wouldn’t.

“The international security program has forced me to put things together in new ways,” said Ames. “By combining practical application with theory, students are able to obtain the knowledge needed to work in the security field.”

After graduation in May of 2019, Ames plans to continue advancing her career in security. “Because I am able to take what I learn in the classroom to work every day, so many doors have been opened,” she said.