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Policy specialist takes on new challenge with START's Graduate Certificate


Policy specialist takes on new challenge with START's Graduate Certificate

June 25, 2013Emily Smith

Sarah Farnsworth, an international development policy specialist, has worked in the United States government and with non-governmental organizations addressing post-crisis governance policy challenges in Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. She's worked in various arenas in her hometown of Washington, D.C., where she grew up in a Foreign Service family. After working on four U.S. presidential campaigns, traveling abroad to work with political activists and civil society leaders, Farnsworth is taking on a new challenge: START's Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis.

"With the explosion of the Internet, cell phone technology and international trade and financing on a level we have never experienced, terrorism is not so homegrown anymore," Farnsworth said.

"As a student of public policy and a practitioner of democratic development, it is critical for me to understand the nuances of this new global structure."

The drive to understand -- and to help others understand -- is nothing new for Farnsworth.

Working overseas with a variety of non-governmental organizations in failed states, emerging states and post-crisis states, she witnessed the "enormous disconnect between on-the-ground reality and Washington-based policymakers." She's dedicated her work to trying to close that gap.

"I have spent my career engaging a wide range of people and groups to put together the map of the situation and its nuances to understand the choices and the impact of the U.S. government's engagement overseas" Farnsworth said.

"I've worked my way to the Washington policy table to bring the voice and experiences of local, community and indigenous civil society leaders to decision makers. I believe that to make good policy you need good information."

Given her thirst for knowledge, Farnsworth had been interested in pursuing a master's degree at the University of Maryland but found that START's fully online certificate program was better tailored to her schedule and interests.

"I have long been concerned with understanding the conditions that are conducive to terrorist ideals taking root and have worked with NGOs and others on theories and applied programs to address those conditions to learn what can help mitigate the draw of the call of terrorist groups."

Farnsworth said she hopes to round out her knowledge through the graduate certificate program and her interactions with her classmates. It aims to provide participants with advanced education on the causes, dynamics and impacts of international terrorism.

The program takes just one year to complete and comprises four courses: Terrorist Motivations and Behaviors, Societal Impacts of and Responses to Terrorism, Development of Counterterrorism Policy and Programs, and Research Methods in Terrorism and Counterterrorism.

"I am most looking forward to discussions and presentations with my virtual classmates," Farnsworth said.

"What intrigued me about the program was the opportunity for people worldwide to be in the program because it is all online. Not being constrained by having to attend in-person really opens up the courses to an array of people with varying experiences and observations."

Farnsworth recently began a sabbatical to help her craft the next step in her career in the policy arena. No matter the direction, she said the study of terrorism is critically important in facilitating diplomacy.

"Development and diplomacy has changed in numerous ways since the 9/11 attacks and the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania," she said.

"Development now takes place in warzones and diplomacy behind bunkers and high security details. The divide between our diplomats and the day-to-day interactions with the citizens of a country are more constrained and limited which will only encourage the further distancing of understanding between cultures."


Sarah Farnsworth was a senior program specialist at the United States Agency for International Affairs, working in in the Bureau for Asia's Office of East Asia Affairs on Burma. Her past experience includes work with the Department of State, the United States Millennium Campaign, InterAction, the Institute for Inclusive Security, the National Democratic Institute for International Development and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems as well as the United States Agency for International Development.


Apply by July 15, 2013 to begin START's Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis this fall. For more information and to apply, visit http://www.start.umd.edu/start/education/academic_programs/gc/.