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A Letter to Mom and Dad by Lindsey Hedrick

Hi Mom and Dad,

Before I begin, I want to thank you for all the support and encouragement that you have given me this past year. This pandemic has brought many challenges and hurdles to my peers and I; often leaving us feeling even more stressed and anxious about our futures. With your support, I have been able to recognize that this period in our lives is only temporary and to use this time to grow professionally, learn new skills (like how to actually feel proficient at Microsoft Excel), and embrace all opportunities (even if they are remote).

While online graduate school was never something that I anticipated I would be doing to complete my master’s degree; I am thankful for professors that have still challenged my peers and I. Navigating an online world (that was supposed to be completely in person) has presented challenges at times, many of which I have overcome by advancing my technological capabilities through various video meeting platforms (especially Zoom). There are also many positives about online school; I have met many animal friends that sneak into the sides of the screen, making a special appearance for the whole class to see. I have even shown my own little animal Kiwi (a female hedgehog) to my classes on a couple different occasions, something we would never experience in an in-person lecture. Our professors have taught us more than conventional lessons. They have taught us about patience, fortitude, grace under pressure and resiliency. Their demonstration of a positive attitude regardless of circumstance and their flexibility on deadlines has decreased our stress considerably and I think opened our aperture on learning and our understanding about how to balance risk.

An unanticipated consequence of the global pandemic, in addition to moving to an online learning environment, has been the cancellation or delay of graduate internships, which are not only a course requirement but also an opportunity to earn professional experience as part of our course of study. The restrictions imposed by the global pandemic in many cases obviated the amount and variety of available public and private sector internships which could have downstream consequences of what is anticipated to be a very competitive job market post-graduation. I will personally always be thankful to Kiernan Group Holdings (KGH) for providing a remote internship opportunity and upon completion, part -time work-also remote. I know that makes you happy as well! While we may not physically work in the same room, the opportunity to work with mentors like Dr. Kiernan and many others in the law enforcement and Intelligence Community has broadened my experience and increased my competencies. There is no substitute for practical application of theory and knowledge as a graduate student.

Another challenge has been to establish a normal day-to-day routine while going to school online and working from home. After many months of doing the same things every week, burnout and depression has been an issue impacting students. I have challenged myself to increase my exercise and sleep routines as well as to eat healthy by finding new recipes and experimenting more than I ever would if I was attending class on campus. I can now make several delicious low-carb vegetarian meals (my personal favorite is spaghetti squash casserole). I’ve learned that getting enough sleep, staying active, and eating a healthy diet has improved my productivity and helped me maintain a positive attitude.

Living through this ever-changing environment has forced my peers and I to become more flexible and adaptable and to find ways to increase our collaboration and inclusiveness. The CDC guidelines, local and state mandates, and school guidance are constantly evolving, which means we must too, there is no room for complacency. Currently many universities are partnering with their state health departments to create a plan for campus-wide vaccination. These vaccination efforts will help campuses, communities and our nation get back to some form of normalcy. I look forward to a day where I can gather with my peers and professors safely in a post-COVID world.

The pandemic has taught me that preparedness is the key to safety. For me, being prepared means staying up to date on the latest guidance put in place by the CDC and the State of Virginia. Being prepared also means wearing my mask everywhere I go when leaving the confines of home. Hand sanitizer and soap are essential things that I make sure I have plenty of at all times. Preparedness also means listening to and learning from empirical data and not listening to hype or denial. I am also forever grateful for the selfless dedication of the medical and First Responder communities and all of the essential workers who keep us safe. It is another life lesson that I may not have learned in school that I am grateful for it.

Again, Mom and Dad, I thank you for all of the support you have always given me especially throughout this pandemic. The anxiety and worry that graduate students are enduring is not easy, but it is important to recognize that this pandemic is only temporary, and our resilience will become a lifelong skill. Thank you for all the pep talks over Facetime and care packages that you’ve sent my way. I look forward to the next visit when we can gather together safely.

About Lindsey Hedrick

Lindsey Hedrick is an Intelligence Research Analyst for Kiernan Group Holdings. She assists with the analysis and exploitation of open source data for various threat vectors, and researches state of practice content for curriculum development and training. She graduated Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Criminology with a minor in Law and Society from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.
Born and raised in the Midwest, she moved to Arlington, Virginia to pursue her Master of Arts degree in Forensic and Legal Psychology with a concentration in intelligence studies. She is expected to graduate in May 2021. She has previously interned at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the case management analytical divisions.
Her areas of interest include threats of a pandemic on school and university operations and active shooter preparedness training and education to schools and universities.

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