Friday, May 30, 2014

How the liberal arts made Ayn Dietrich '04 a spokesperson for the FBI

Every day, Ayn Dietrich ’04 talks with reporters about high profile cases involving federal investigators, from suspected terrorist activity to searches for missing children. She previously served as an intelligence analyst and the person who briefs the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the attorney general on important cases.

Friday afternoon, she gave Randolph College Summer Research students an insider’s view of that world. While on campus for her 10-year reunion, Dietrich spoke in the weekly Summer Research seminar.

“I love working for an organization whose goal is to protect those who are in this country and Americans overseas,” she said. “I take it as a real honor to spread information about what we do and clear up misunderstandings.”

Dietrich, a public affairs specialist for the FBI Seattle division, showed video clips of various interviews she gave to media, and she described the process of preparing for the interviews—which sometimes involves having an hour or less to master the facts of a case.

She also described the variety of jobs she has performed for the FBI and how her liberal arts background qualified her to find success in those positions. “I couldn’t have experienced this if I didn’t have the versatile background of a liberal arts degree,” she said.

Dietrich majored in international studies and minored in communication studies and Spanish at the College. She also worked in the White House one summer and in Spain for two summers during her college career. When she went to graduate school at Columbia University, she was able to finish in one year, and her thesis was adapted from a paper she began in her senior year at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

“You wouldn’t think that in a small college I could write a paper about  how state owned enterprise in China contributes to the failure of China to create a really robust security system,” she said, noting that a larger university might have a professor who specializes in that topic and could advise her. “But I value because what I had here, because instead of one professor who was an expert who could guide me, the College gave me five.”

She added that the College’s emphasis on writing and communicating continue to serve her daily.

As an undergraduate, she was editor of The Sundial, the student-run newspaper, and served in Student Government while also playing tennis and being active in other activities. In her working life, she has continued to be involved in the community by teaching Zumba and mentoring a teenager. “My ability to do all that came as a result of being a well-rounded student and pushing myself in different areas,” she said. “This school still challenges you to be well-rounded.”