Childhood Dream Leads Alumnus to Security Studies Ph.D.


Jason Christensen, Ph.D., distinctly remembers fear and tragedy during the catastrophic events of 9/11. That morning, he also remembers his resolve to protect people and pursue a career in national security.

“Even then as a child I realized any day could be a 9/11,” said Christensen. “I knew that I wanted to do something, anything, to prevent it from happening again.”

As an undergraduate scholar, Christensen pursued a degree in Global Studies with an emphasis on International Relations and Counterterrorism at the University of Minnesota, where he went on to earn his Master’s of Science degree in Security Technologies.

“I was about twelve years old when I decided that obtaining a Ph.D in my field was something I’d like to aspire towards one day,” said Christensen. “It was my grandfather, Dr. William R. Laney, who encouraged me to pursue this dream if I felt passionate about it.”

In the Fall of 2014, Christensen realized that dream by joining the Security Studies doctoral program in the UCF School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs, earning his doctorate at only twenty-five years old.

“Throughout my doctoral degree, I learned the power of perseverance, which prepared me for my current career,” said Christensen. “For example, the necessity of sacrifice in pursuit of a higher goal and the need to prioritize leads to rewarding outcomes. With this comes risk, tenacity, and learning to also have unwavering faith in yourself.”

Christensen now works as a lead associate social scientist at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, specializing in methodology and applied analytics. His current research also analyzes the psychology of terrorists to better understand individual motives and external conditions for recruitment into violent extremist organizations.

“Certainly there are stressful moments in my career,” said Christensen. “I compartmentalize, practice yoga and remain close to my family to remind myself of all the good left in this world worth fighting for when things seem dark.”

For the foreseeable future, Christensen plans on continuing his work creating data-driven decision-making platforms and deliverables for military leadership while leveraging applied analytics.

“In the future, especially during retirement, I’d also consider teaching as an adjunct professor to help educate the next generation of scholars as national security threats undoubtedly continue to evolve,” said Christensen.

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