This semester 15 honors students are taking a class not offered at many other schools. CIA Declassified: 1973 Arab Israeli Conflict, taught by Dr. Marc O’Reilly, is really an experiment within itself.
The cornerstone of the class is the release of declassified documents from the CIA. Heidelberg is one of the first schools in the country to have access to these documents. This type of class was new territory for both professor and students.
“I have learned a lot teaching this class,” said O’Reilly. “I’ve never had a class where I decided to redo the syllabus a third of the way through.” Being an honors class, there is a wide variety of majors with differing interests in the material. This dynamic fostered an environment of give and take. “The collaboration it took to run with class was a hidden benefit,” said Megan Yost, a freshman history/self-designed studies double major.
CIA historian, Peter Nyren, oversaw the declassification of the documents in Washington D.C. and was able to visit the honors class to talk about the process and CIA analysis. Heidelberg received 418 documents of various lengths that were distributed to the students. They were intelligence analysis documents from the pre-war, war, and post-war times of the 1973 Arab Israeli Conflict. “It was fascinating to see what they (CIA) were doing,” said Julia Lachowski, a freshman political science/international studies double major.
The class focused on a discussion, the history, and an analysis of American intelligence. “Reading through the CIA briefs allowed us to see the American perspective of the event,” said Megan. While the information was declassified, students still had plenty of holes to speculate about. “I had a 15 page document that had 8 pages redacted,” said Alex Wilhelm, a sophomore education major.
The class traveled to Washington D.C. midway through the semester. They visited CIA headquarters, the CIA museum, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and various memorials. A highlight for many was having dinner with five Heidelberg alums living in the D.C. area.
“It was awesome talking to the alums,” said Megan. “They gave us advice from their own experiences about studying abroad and getting ahead in a career.” Students realized that it’s not your major, but your skills that are important to employers. “It was a proud moment for me seeing different generations of my students interact,” said O’Reilly.
The four day trip to D.C. impacted all the students in different ways. “This visit was instrumental in shaping my career path,” said Megan. After the trip, she changed her second major from Anthropology to a Self-Designed Studies major to include aspects of both anthropology and political science. “I’m excited to keep traveling,” added Julia. “Heidelberg has many opportunities for me.”
CIA Declassified, will be an opportunity these students won’t forget and will reverberate throughout their academic careers. “This class challenged me,” said Alex. “I came to Heidelberg because I wanted these experiences.”