Vedant Patel ’21 started thinking about a career in intelligence during his sophomore year at Lynchburg.
“I knew I was interested in the criminal justice system, but I did not want to be a police officer,” said Patel, then a criminology major with a minor in international relations. “I was thinking about possibly doing forensics. I liked trying to figure out complicated puzzles and finding details in a problem that would help solve it.”
After taking courses in international relations and discussing career options with professors, Patel decided that a career in intelligence was something he wanted to pursue.
One of his professors, the late Keith Smith, made a big impact. Smith joined Lynchburg’s criminology faculty after a distinguished law enforcement career. Working with the New York Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, and other agencies, he fought crime on city streets, in the jungles of Latin America, and across deserts in the Middle East.
“His experiences and insight in working with the federal government helped me decide what I wanted to do in the future,” Patel said. “Hearing his stories from his work abroad as a federal agent added another layer of personal experience that we were able to get during class.”
So, when Lynchburg launched an intelligence studies degree in 2020 — one year before he was set to graduate — Patel jumped on board. He was the University’s first intelligence major to graduate and set his sights on working for a federal law enforcement agency.
He knew having the two degrees — intelligence studies and criminology — would be a plus.
“The classes … helped me understand more about the field and think about issues in a way that I would never have thought about before,” he said. “They challenged your thinking, but not in a way to minimize what your previous thinking had been.
“Learning about how the two programs connected with each other also provided a great opportunity to look at an issue from a different perspective. The aspect of intelligence being more global is something that I found intriguing.
“Thinking about problems and how to deal with issues, not only in the U.S. but abroad, was something that influenced me to go that career route.”
And it paid off. Shortly after graduation, Patel landed a job at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.