Protecting Americans and the First Family Abroad

As a summer intern with the U.S. Department of State, Dakin Stanesic helped prepare for a visit by Michelle Obama and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, to Milan, Italy during the First Lady’s tour to fight childhood obesity. Stanesic even got to ride in the motorcade escorting the First Family through the streets of the Italian city.

Logos for STAFS“It took a few weeks to prepare for -- a lot of people and a lot of overtime,” said Stanesic, a master’s student in Homeland Security. “I was able to assist the Secret Service and the White House staff along with the Diplomatic Security Services in the advance team. I had the privilege of riding in the motorcade.”

To protect the First Family, Stanesic had to develop skills and instincts to know what threats to look for, to prevent anything from happening, and to react quickly in the event something happened. “This is true for every level of law enforcement, from local to federal agents,” he added.

During his three month internship, Stanesic was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Milan, where he worked in the Consular section and Regional Security Office. The American Citizen Services office assists Americans abroad with any needs that may arise, such as getting an emergency passport, fully validating passports or assisting those with dual passports to renounce their American citizenship. In the Consular section, he worked in issuing visas for foreigners to visit the U.S., and he was one of few Americans that had the security clearance for some visa processing tasks, such as taking fingerprints.

Stanesic said he enjoyed his time abroad and found he quickly picked up the language. He also picked up some other tips, too.

“I learned even small cultural things, like there is no Italian dressing in Italy,” joked Stanesic. “They mostly use some type of oil or vinaigrette with salt. I also learned that Italians don’t drink milk in the afternoon, so when you order a cappuccino or latte in the afternoon, they will know you’re an American.”

As an undergraduate, Stanesic also did an internship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Houston at the Detention Center and Deportation Office, which is charged with deporting illegal aliens convicted of crimes within Texas’ prison system. He helped create or update profiles on offenders so they could be tracked if they reenter the United States, conducted inmate interviews in prison, and processed fingerprints and background checks on inmates.

After graduation, he plans to join the U.S. Marine Corps and parlay his experiences into a federal law enforcement job in the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service or the FBI.

Stanesic said that his education at Sam Houston State University has been “vital” in preparing him for the internship. Some of the lessons he took with him to Italy were what to look for when protecting a VIP or executive, how to respond to active shooter situations, and how to deal with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or ordinary explosives.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Stanesic. “I certainly learned a lot about Italy and Europe.”

Stanesic said the contacts he has made at the State Department, the U.S. Secret Service, the White House and ICE are invaluable.

“It has helped me make a ton of contacts and learn a lot of skills you can’t learn in a classroom about the field,” he said. “Doing an internship for any major is extremely helpful for any student with their career. It allows one to see first-hand what they can do in their field of study and build a resume, while getting credit from the university. This is especially true with College of Criminal Justice students. For CJ students, there are things that you can try and explain in a classroom, but until you are actually in the moment, see it, or experience it yourself, you will not understand things that could potentially save your life, or others’ lives throughout your career.”

The College of Criminal Justice offers more than 300 internship opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels in agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses in criminal justice, forensics, victim services and private security. Among the international options available are Interpol in France; the Metropolitan Police – New Scotland Yard in England; the Department of Primary Industries and Regions in Boating and Fisheries in Australia; and Shepp Johnman and Associations Investigations in Alberta, Canada.

Internships are offered during the senior or final year, where students can work full-time at an agency for an entire semester for nine credits as an undergraduate and six credits as a graduate student.

“The United States Department of State is a great partner for our program,” said Dr. Jim Dozier, Internship Coordinator. “Recently we have had placements in Panama, Brussels, and now Milan.”

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