Kendra Perry-Ward, director of government and business relations for the Center for Nanoscience at UMSL, graduated from FBI Citizens Academy in May. (Photo by August Jennewein)

In her line of work at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Kendra Perry-Ward comes into contact with FBI agents. Recently, the tables were turned, and she had the opportunity to actually put herself in the shoes of a special agent.

In May, she graduated from the FBI Citizens Academy in St. Louis.

“It was exciting to find out first hand how the FBI works,” said Perry-Ward, director of government and business relations for the Center for Nanoscience at UMSL. “We have done a lot of work with the FBI over the years because of the type of research we do here.”

During her time at UMSL, Perry-Ward has has partnered with the bureau on various presentations and seminars. In particular, she coordinates an FBI-led conference at UMSL, which educates faculty on conducting business overseas, research technology protection and cyber safety. It’s part of the FBI’s Strategic Partnership Initiative Program which proactively shares information with private industry and academia to safeguard the nation’s intellectual property and ensure that the U.S. maintains its technological and competitive edge.

During the nine-session course taught by special agents, Perry-Ward learned everything from how the bureau tracks down spies and terrorists to how special agents balance enforcing the laws and ensuring the constitutional rights of an individual. The citizens academy is designed for business, religious and civic leaders who are nominated by an FBI employee or a previous academy graduate. A limited number of participants are then selected from the pool of nominees. The program is offered nationwide.

One of the highlights of the class for Perry-Ward was pretending to be a special agent in various scenarios making split-second, life-or-death decisions.  Students went through simulations, using real M16’s, but CO2 cartridges and a laser instead of bullets.

“The simulation was incredible. It was kind of like a really high-end video game,” she said. “You interact with this game that’s going on and get to walk through and see what agents go through.”

The purpose of the FBI Citizens Academy is to demystify the work and dispel the misconceptions of the FBI and build stronger partnerships with community leaders.

As a newly anointed FBI “ambassador,” Perry-Ward will continue to be involved with the St. Louis office of the FBI.  As a graduate of the academy she will have the opportunity to further her education about law enforcement and support the mission of the FBI through various public safety initiatives.

Media Coverage:
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