CIA Museum Director, Rob, discusses the history of CIA from its origins as the OSS.

Last Tuesday, we hosted a group of nearly 200 student interns at our Headquarters in Langley, Virginia for a number of briefings and discussions on Agency history and culture. Occasionally, we invite student groups to learn more about our mission and people. On those visits, most walk through the doors of CIA expecting a gallery of space-age weaponry and cool cars. We hate to disappoint, but want to set the record straight. By inviting student groups, we get the chance to “lift the curtain,” so to speak, and show them what work at Langley actually looks like.

Tuesday’s group came to CIA from a handful of Washington-based entities. Many of these students are considering careers in intelligence or international affairs, and came to the Agency to learn more about our career and internship opportunities. Our goal was to create a program that touched on all of these topics: CIA history, work, mission, and culture.

We kicked off the day with a presentation from the Director of CIA Museum, Rob, who began his presentation with a quick question: “How many agents do you think work here at CIA?” After a brief pause, a few responses rang out from the group. “Four thousand,” said one intern sitting in the front of the auditorium. “Ten thousand!” another shouted from the back. The answer: zero. “CIA employees are called officers,” Rob explained with a laugh.

Rob continued with a brief history of CIA, from the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services, our predecessor, to the modern day CIA and everything in between. He spoke about the need for intelligence and major technical achievements, like the U2 and CORONA satellite programs that dramatically improved our ability to collect information.

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Next, we transitioned to a panel discussion with representatives from each of CIA’s five directorates: Analysis, Operations, Support, Science and Technology, and Digital Innovation. The interns asked a range of questions, which spanned from interest in the panelist’s career progression to how the officers manage to balance their personal and work lives, given the classified nature of the work at CIA. When asked about their motivations to work at CIA, the panelists all responded to the same call: mission. “I’m not here because it’s going to make me a lot of money,” one panelist said. “I’m here because I cherish the opportunity to serve and protect the United States.”

Interns rounded out their day with a presentation on creativity from CIA Creative Thinking Facilitator Jacob. His presentation, which he also delivered at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film, media, and music festival earlier this year, highlighted strategies and tools our analysts use to reframe their key intelligence questions and encourage creative and divergent thinking.

CIA is always on the lookout for opportunities to give students a peek into the halls of Langley, and to demystify our mission. Are you interested in learning more about internships with CIA? Check out our student opportunities page!