UCF Master’s Degree Launches Alumnus’ Career

Dr. Ben FreemanBen Freeman, ’05, continues to benefit from his master’s degree in political science from UCF. Dr. Freeman explained the knowledge he gained at UCF was immensely valuable as he worked toward his Ph.D at Texas A&M University, and continues to help him in his current political work.

While earning his Ph.D. in political science from Texas A&M University, he was an instructor in the political science department and the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Then Dr. Freeman was a national security investigator at the Project on Government Oversight.

Now Dr. Freeman is the policy advisor for national security at Third Way. He specializes in Department of Defense personnel issues, weapons procurement, and is the author of The Foreign Policy Auction, an investigation of the foreign influence industry in America. His work and commentary on national security issues has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, on National Public Radio, CNN, and in numerous other media outlets.

Dr. Freeman has used his knowledge testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee and as an instructor in the School of Security and Global Studies at American Military University.
Dr. Freeman shared his advice for current UCF students and Alumni:

“Keep making friends at UCF, even after you leave UCF. These are the folks who could ultimately help you get your next job. Plus, the alumni network is HUGE and Knights are just good people. They are a lot of fun to hang out with while you’re watching the Knights win BCS bowl games. So, it’s a win-win!”

Dr. Freeman answered some questions about his influential time at UCF and his current work:

Why did you choose to attend UCF?

I initially chose UCF for reasons of convenience. It was a little over an hour drive from Flagler Beach, where I grew up, and the maste’rs classes were all at night so I could still work during the day. Within the first week I was hooked and never regretted the two hour roundtrip drive time.

How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?

My degree has helped me immensely. It prepared me remarkably well for my studies at Texas A&M. Now that I actually work in politics in D.C. I see first-hand many of the things I learned about at UCF—from how the legislative process actually works to the impact of political messaging on public opinion. At UCF I learned theories of politics, now I see those theories in action. And, understanding the underlying dynamic gives me a tremendous advantage.

What is your best UCF memory?

Probably when I found out I had passed my comprehensive exams. That was such a gauntlet I was terrified I’d have to do it again, but then I passed!

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Helping to change public policy. It’s extremely rare, but I’ve been very fortunate to have conducted research that ultimately led to policy changes which make the country safer. I’ve always wanted to do work that helped my country, so having the opportunity to do that, even if it doesn’t happen very often and is a very tough fight when it does, is extremely rewarding.

What is your most memorable experience on the job?

When I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. After months of research I came to the startling conclusion the U.S. military was more top-heavy than it had ever been in U.S. history. Coincidentally, around the same time I learned the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel was holding a hearing on this exact issue. So, I contacted them and offered my research to help them with the hearing, and they invited me to testify alongside a few guys with a lot of stars on their soldiers. I was equally honored and terrified…particularly when Senator Lindsey Graham asked me a numbers question that I, a self-professed data nerd, didn’t have the answer to. I made a tactical retreat and said I’d provide the information to him later.

Dr. Freeman also answered some fun questions for us:

If you could have front-row seats to any concert, which would you choose?

My favorite band—Pearl Jam. I’ve seen them several times, but never that close. The last time I saw them Eddie Vedder shared his bottle of wine with some folks in the front row. So, if we could arrange that, I’d be the happiest fan alive.

What is the happiest and/or proudest moment of your life?

When I married my wife Jess Saracino. I’ll never forget how radiant she looked—it was almost like a supernatural glow.

What do you do for fun?

Crossfit. Triathlons. Basketball. Softball. Camping. Kayaking. Hiking. I’m a nerd all day, so in my free time I like to do as much physical activity as possible.

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I’ll quote Jimmy Buffett for this one, “Give me oysters and beer for dinner every day of the year and I’ll feel fine.”

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