Meet Clara Braun
She dreamed of working for Homeland Security someday
But really, that day has already arrived.
Clara Braun, a second-year doctoral student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is working as one of the theme leads for the National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology, and Education (NCITE) Center.
NCITE’s academic research is organized under four themes, and each one has a graduate student attached to help coordinate communication and gain real-world exposure in his or her field of study.
Braun will work under NCITE founders Gina Ligon and Doug Derrick who are running NCITE Theme 1, the Nature of Counterterrorism Operations. Five research projects are centered around this theme.
Braun has a front-row seat to the cutting-edge research but also is a step closer to her dream job. Braun, 27, first became interested in the field after watching the unedited security footage of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in a criminology elective as an undergraduate student in Colorado.
“I’d never had anything impact me more,” she said.
She couldn’t stop thinking about that event and realized that if the field of criminology had the capability of staying with her like this, “maybe I need to be part of it.” Afterward, she had the opportunity to attend an event where Dr. Ligon was presenting on leadership in terrorist organizations.
She was wowed.
“I just remember thinking that she was the coolest person that I’d ever seen in my life,” Braun recalled. She began to work with Ligon soon after. In her new role, Clara will work closely with Ligon and Derrick to meet the research interests of Homeland Security for the next four years.
As for what’s next, Braun hopes to work in the government eventually in a more direct capacity. She wants to be part of the team at Homeland Security that assesses and decides what the most important areas of research are in the field. She says she feels very fortunate to get this opportunity.
“I have been able to travel and present to audiences I never thought I would,” she said.
Most of all, she feels that the two professors are lighting her path, being “100% invested in cultivating professional development.” Their support and generosity with students was a big reason she decided to pursue her doctorate at UNO. Braun encourages interested students to join NCITE because of its collaborative nature.
“Terrorism is not a siloed issue that belongs to one single field,” she said. “The entire point of NCITE is that we work in a collaborative field of experts in IT Innovation, business and management, psychology, and criminology. It helps you change your thinking.”
Looking back, Braun can see how that presentation Ligon gave four years ago changed the trajectory of her career. “I love my job and I love my research,” Braun said. “It’s some of the most rewarding work you could ever do.