A man wearing a suit smiling at the camera. His hands are resting on a wooden banister.
Evan Hirsh, a graduating homeland security and emergency preparedness major in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU and political science major in the College of Humanities and Sciences, credits his professors for helping him find his passion. (David Slipher, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU)

Class of 2022: Public service, impact guide Evan Hirsh’s focus on intelligence analysis

Internships with the Henrico County Police Division, Virginia State Police and Defense Intelligence Agency have prepared Hirsh, graduating with degrees from the Wilder School and College of Humanities and Sciences, to launch a career in intelligence.

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Early on, Evan Hirsh knew he was cut out for a career in public service. Now concluding his final semester at Virginia Commonwealth University, Hirsh’s plans are coming to fruition — but not in the way he initially imagined.

“I knew that I wanted to be involved in meaningful policy change and have an impact on American lives,” he said. “I was interested in the political process and following hot-button issues at the local, state and federal levels, but I started getting really burnt out. So I started thinking, ‘What can I do that’s government-related, but not quite politics?’”

Hirsh found his answer during a visit to the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU in his junior year of high school. He and his family traveled from Atlanta and met with James Keck, an associate professor of homeland security and emergency preparedness

“He gave me a brief rundown of the program, and I fell in love with it,” Hirsh said. “I knew immediately that it’s what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.”

During his first semester in the program, Hirsh added a double major in political science with a concentration in human security at VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences. As he advanced into upper-level courses, his career path came into focus.

“I discovered I wanted to go down the track of the intelligence community,” Hirsh said. “I started trying to figure out where I would fit in and what would motivate me each and every day, and I started doing more intelligence analysis.”

Hirsh recently accepted a full-time position as an intelligence analyst with Booz Allen Hamilton that will begin upon graduation. A combination of internship experience, volunteer work and courses prepared him to take the leap. 

Emergency preparedness for career preparedness

Maureen Moslow-Benway’s intelligence community and processing course had a transformative impact on Hirsh.

“We did an assignment where we wrote a threat assessment about world security threats, and I chose the Russian government's military expansion into the Arctic region,” he reflected. “I remember staying up really late writing the paper, but during that entire process, I found that I genuinely enjoyed what I did. I enjoyed the process of methodically pulling different pieces of information from different sources, of being able to come up with an intelligence product that I would be able to speak knowledgeably about — and that was where the switch went off.”

Moslow-Benway, an assistant professor and chair of the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program, described Hirsh as “one of the Wilder School’s brightest stars.” Hirsh will deliver the student address at the Wilder School’s Fall Commencement ceremony.

A class about terrorism and extremism led by David Webber, Ph.D., an associate professor in the program, was another experience that solidified Hirsh’s passion for the field. “Being able to learn from his expertise was priceless,” Hirsh said.

Larry Prokop, an adjunct professor in the program, also played a key role in Hirsh’s career journey.

A man looking at the camera smiling with two thumbs up. Three people are standing next to him, and he is next to a white van.
Internships with the Henrico County Division of Police, Virginia State Police and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency have prepared Hirsh to launch a career in intelligence. (Photo courtesy of Evan Hirsh)

“His course in intelligence ethics was one of my favorites,” he said. “Professor Prokop has a very impressive track record and resume. Learning from somebody who's done this for so long is really impactful, and the skills I learned in his course are going to stick with me throughout my career.”

Three internships allowed Hirsh to put his classroom experiences to the test. The first was with Henrico County’s Police Division in the summer of 2021. He was responsible for working alongside the records department, identifying fingerprints, transcribing fingerprint reports and preparing analysts to speak in court cases.

Soon after, Hirsh started as an intern with the Virginia State Police. He still holds this position today. Under the guidance of 2008 Wilder School criminal justice graduate Thomas Kohlbeck, he assists the Unsolved Violent Crimes and Cold Cases Unit. 

“We are essentially intel analysts that provide research and analysis on different threats across the state of Virginia,” Hirsh explained. “I’ve worked on multiple cold case homicide investigations conducting research and using investigative and analytical skills. I’ve dug into instances of terrorism, political extremism, sex crimes, human trafficking, cybersecurity threats and more. It was through this internship that I really started to get a handle on what it means to be an intel analyst. If I didn't have that opportunity, I would be a lost puppy right now.”

Hirsh was also selected as an intern with the Defense Intelligence Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, in 2022.

“It was through this internship that I met so many people that would have a real impact on where I could go in my career, and I still talk with them today,” he said. “They still have an interest in where I end up in life, which is really powerful. The networking opportunities and security clearance set me up for a successful interview with Booz Allen Hamilton.”

Hirsh has also served as president, vice president and historian of Eta Lambda Sigma, the professional fraternity for the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program. 

“We’ve participated in Alzheimer's walks for awareness, organized car washes to raise money for cancer research, built hygiene kits for the homeless population, run food drives, led fundraisers for Ukrainian refugees, planned community cleanups — a plethora of things,” he said. 

With an emphasis on community service at the forefront of his work, Hirsh is rapidly building his career as a dedicated public servant. 

“Richmond and VCU do so much for us, so why don't I return the favor? I try to give back in any way that I can.”

This story originally appeared on the Wilder School website.