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Flashpoint: How an image sparked personal research for GPS student

An image can spark many emotions in people. Happiness, sadness, remembrance. For Jennifer Delgado, one image sparked her interest to research the recruitment of children into terrorist organizations.

The topic initially intrigued Delgado when her class discussed an image used by ISIS of a little girl holding a gun. The girl looked to be the same age as Delgado’s little sisters at the time. “It was so wrong. I could never picture someone as young as them, having a gun at age 5,” she said. “Just imagine that they’re fighting for something that they don’t even know what is going on.”

The image stuck with her when Prof. McDowell-Smith approached her to do research for a prestigious Johns Hopkins University Symposium. Delgado could’ve picked any topic to submit her initial abstract on, but she immediately knew what she needed to cover. The research has been submitted to the Symposium and is now nearing publication.

The research was overseen by Prof. Allison McDowell-Smith, who heads the graduate counterterrorism program at Nichols.  

Delgado and McDowell-Smith note that the research is impactful not just because of the sensitive topic, but also because it covers an area that is not often the focus of academic research.

“There’s not much research in this area. Most of the time they hid it because it’s dangerous,” Delgado said.

It’s especially dangerous for academics who go to research the situations firsthand in areas where the exploitation of children by terrorist organizations is more common. Delgado said there have been incidents where reporters and researchers being kidnapped while there, and some even being murdered.

“Not many dare go over. But the topic is very present, it’s a growing issue of concern,” she said.

FUTURE FOR DELGADO
Delgado came to Nichols to study Criminal Justice. But after taking Prof. Neagle’s War on Terror course during undergrad, she knew she had to continue learning about terrorist organizations through the GPS Masters of Counterterrorism program.

After graduation, Delgado hopes to turn her research into more than curiosity: she wants it to become a career. 

Delgado’s goal is to become a counterterrorism analyst and researcher. Ideally, she would work for the FBI, and her dream is to work for the United Nations

But she faces an additional hurdle before her dream can come true. To work for the FBI, Delgado said you have to be a US citizen, which she is currently not.

“Without my citizenship, I can never land my dream job,” she said.

She is working toward her citizenship, though. And, just in case, she’s got a pretty great backup plan: Work for Interpol, an International Crime Police Organization.