William & Mary

An undergrad’s tale

  • Alexander Nocks sits behind a laptop at the Global Research Institute
    Real-world experience  As a research fellow, Alexander Nocks presented his original research and briefed representatives from Congress, the military and the intelligence community on his regulatory proposals to better secure emerging commercialized geospatial intelligence.  
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Delivering change through the Global Research Institute

When Alexander Nocks first visited William & Mary’s Global Research Institute as a prospective student, he was intimidated by the expectation that undergrads contribute to high-level policy conversations. Only later did he realize how thoroughly the Institute prepares its students to produce those contributions.

A multidisciplinary hub that brings together academics, practitioners and students to apply research to real world issues, W&M’s Global Research Institute empowers undergraduates to make a difference in the world. 

The very first thing the Institute taught Alexander when he arrived at William & Mary as an undergrad is that he can provide analysis that matters. “There’s a lot to learn from helping other organizations or individuals with their work,” Alexander says. “But at too many schools that’s where the ceiling is. At William & Mary, it’s the floor.”

The Institute advocates for its students because the faculty and staff know they are getting equipped to deliver. “Stick around long enough and you’ll find your writing, speaking and analysis improving more than you ever thought possible,” Alexander says.

Two years after his first visit as a high school student, Alexander encountered the Institute’s high expectations again as a research fellow with the Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS). Seven months later he met those expectations while presenting his original research and briefing representatives from Congress, the military and the intelligence community on his regulatory proposals to better secure emerging commercialized geospatial intelligence. 

The support the Institute has given Alexander has gone beyond its core projects. With funding from GRI’s Shark Tank competition, Alexander and his research partner led a team mapping the spatiotemporal distribution of Hezbollah’s public construction projects. “We were able to design and implement our unique methodology thanks to a place that’s willing to take risks on students, and then provide the close faculty and logistical support needed to enable each of us to succeed.” 

As an intimidated high school student, Alexander only saw the expectation that undergrads will contribute smart ideas to serious conversations. It wasn’t until he immersed himself in the Global Research Institute that he truly understood the breadth of resources provided to help its students to excel. 

At William & Mary students can change the world, but first they are given the opportunity to learn and grow.