Category: Featured News, News, Students

Title: Brian Britt (SFS’21, SSP’22) Sets Out To Build a Better Future for Our Planet, and Beyond

Author: Paul James and Mairead MacRae
Date Published: May 11, 2021
Brian Britt in front of a rocky, mountainous landscape.
Brian Britt has been on many international adventures during his time at Georgetown. The senior hopes his future career will enable him to explore space.

Brian Britt (SFS’21) has set himself an ambitious, and interstellar, goal for his career after graduating: explore the opportunities that await humanity on other planets and address the vast inequalities of our own.

When deciding on a major that would enable him to explore interests as expansive as his own, Britt says the choice was easy. No other program could compete with the offerings of the Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) major, says the senior, who has taken deep dives into space technology, national security, climate science and Latin American studies during his time at Georgetown. 

It only took me a few moments to recognize that STIA offers, in my opinion, the most interesting, innovative and important classes at Georgetown,” Britt recalls. “I never looked back.”

Over the course of his four years at SFS, Britt has formed lasting relationships with classmates and mentors and pursued a passion that he hopes will lead to a career building positive change in our world, and, perhaps, beyond it. 

At a Glance

Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska

Major: Science, Technology and International Affairs

Proseminar: Politics of International Economic Competitiveness

Language: Spanish

Experiences Abroad: Quito, Ecuador; Philippines; Santiago, Chile

On-Campus Activities: Founder, Georgetown University Space Initiative; Guide, Outdoor Education; Member, Rock Climbing team

Briant Britt is pictured with a friend. They are on a sandy, grassy beach and wearing life jackets.
Britt and a friend take a moment to enjoy a remote beach in Palawan, the Philippines during their time as El Nido Resorts GU Impacts Fellows working with a local travel resort to support local communities in the areas the company works.

A New Frontier for Global Affairs

As a premier school of international affairs, SFS inspires students to explore ideas and issues outside the borders of their home countries. But Britt’s favorite Georgetown class provided the opportunity to go one step further and examine how politics, security and power are impacting our relationship with a world beyond our own. 

“Space holds promises of scientific and technological innovations that could fundamentally change society within our lifetimes,” Britt says. “That’s why I encourage everyone to take Dr. Matthew Daniels’ Space Security and Exploration class!”

In the class, Daniels draws on his experience working on space and technology projects at the Department of Defense to guide students through the connections between space and international security, including how satellites play a key role in military intelligence and the importance of the politics of space during the Cold War. 

Britt is pictured with another Georgetown students talking to a local mother and her baby in Palawan, the Philippines.
Britt spends time with residents in Kiminawit, Palawan, the Philippines.

“The class combined science and policy with philosophy and technology to offer, hands down, the most interesting and thought-provoking class at Georgetown,” says Britt, who was so inspired by the class that he worked with two friends to form the Georgetown University Space Initiative (GUSI).

“[Space Security and Exploration] opened my eyes to the promises of space and to the lack of opportunities to explore my interest through on-campus organizations. While the astronomy club has done an incredible job maintaining Georgetown’s observatory, there was no venue to analyze the business, scientific or security implications of the impending space revolution. I wanted to change that,” Britt says of his motivation to create the organization, which has more than fifty student members. 

The group organizes programming and activities that enable members to contribute to leading thinking on the space industry. Members also advocate for more space-based courses in Georgetown’s curriculum. 

“Ultimately, GUSI was created to further the reaches of humanity in space,” its website reads. “Every community has its own skills to contribute to this era-defining undertaking.”

Britt and fellow El Nido Resorts GU Impacts Fellows in enjoy some local cuisine.

Reflecting on a Pandemic Year

Britt believes that one of the key strengths of Georgetown’s community is its ability to convene leaders, experts and changemakers from a myriad of sectors and fields.

“During my time at Georgetown, I’ve seen astronauts, business leaders, heads of state, politicians, presidents, religious leaders, journalists and academic experts take time to come to campus and interact with students,” he explains. “I’ll miss having access to the endlessly fascinating array of people who walk through our front gates.”

However, it was also the people already on the Hilltop who made Britt’s college years special. In addition to Daniels, Britt cites three mentors in particular who he credits with his success over the past four years.

“I want to thank Dean Mini Murphy for her support during my circuitous journey through SFS. It makes me happy to know STIA students are in excellent hands,” he says. “I also want to thank Dr. Jeremy Mathis for hosting a trip to Utqiagvik, Alaska, and making sure I survived the fifty below temperatures we encountered there. I’m still warming up. Thank you, also, for advising me through a tumultuous thesis process!”

SFS students and professors pose in the snow. A mast is visible behind the group, which carries an SFS banner.
Britt and his classmates and professors in the STIA class Problem Solving in a Destabilized Arctic class pose atop a NOAA climate monitoring facility in the sub-zero temperatures of Utqiagvik, Alaska.

“Last but certainly not least,” he continues, “I’d like to thank Dean Lisa Gordinier for being a source of prescient advice and guidance during my first years at Georgetown. Your students are lucky to have you.”

These supportive mentors have been especially important over the past three semesters, during which Georgetown classes — for the most part — have been conducted entirely online during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This year has undeniably been a massive challenge for everyone in my class. That we are living through history is little consolation in the face of missed opportunities, empty classrooms and bars and uncertain futures,” Britt says. 

He continues, “The pandemic has challenged the idea of the Georgetown community, the cohesiveness that made Georgetown such an excellent place to go to school. It has deprived us of a holistic sense of closure that makes it harder to move on from these four years.”

Nevertheless, Britt says his pandemic experience has also provided opportunities for reflection and learning. 

“This year has presented us with silver linings, like opportunities to slow down, spend more time with those we love and reevaluate what matters,” he says. “This unique perspective and the resiliency we painfully gained over the past year will serve us well down the line.”

Brian Britt pictured with some alpacas. A mountainous vista can be seen in background.
Britt meets the local wildlife in Ecuador.

Global Opportunities

Thankfully, the pandemic did not limit his ability to engage in the SFS tradition of studying abroad. Throughout his time at Georgetown, Britt took up overseas learning opportunities whenever he could.

After his first year, he traveled to Quito, Ecuador, to study Spanish and Latin American culture. 

“Part of my program entailed a trip deep inside of the Amazon rainforest, where we saw six species of monkeys, a multitude of birds and the beauty of a truly wild place,” he recalls. 

The group also had the chance to visit and snorkel in the Galapagos Islands, which Britt remembers fondly: “We were surrounded by hundreds of sea lions who were as eager to see us as we were to see them. We spent the next hour swimming with sea lions. It was unclear who had more fun — us or the sea lions.”

Britt is pictured with a group of fellow students. The are standing on an overlook with the sea in the background.
Brian and his friends snap a group photo at an observation post in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

He returned to Latin America in his junior year, living with a host family in Santiago, Chile, for five months to improve his Spanish language skills.

He was present for the Estallido Social, a series of widespread civilian protests across the country’s cities in response to corruption, state violence and economic inequalities. 

 “I witnessed Chile’s largest political upheaval since the Pinochet era,” he explains.

He also spent time in the Philippines as a GU Impacts Fellow, working with a vacation resort business to develop business models that better served underserved communities in the regions where they operated.

“Overall, my experiences abroad defined my time as an undergraduate. Georgetown allowed me to travel to and meet people in places I never would have been able to access on my own,” he says.

A group of women are lined up with their hands up. A bandage is taped over each of their left eyes.
Britt witnessed widespread protests in Santiago, Chile’s central square.

After the Hilltop

At the milestone of his graduation, Britt knows he is striking out into a world fraught with uncertainty. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic presented yet another global challenge that failed to encourage the levels of international cooperation needed to minimize the virus’s damage,” he says. “A large part of the future of international affairs must be dedicated to achieving greater degrees of cooperation to address the world’s most pressing issues.”

Britt is planning to pursue a career that will enable him to make a contribution to this wider aim. “I’m interested in working towards a goal that is larger than me, something that will make me proud of the life I’ve lived when I’m older,” he stresses. 

In the immediate future, Britt will complete an accelerated Master’s degree with SFS’s Security Studies Program (SSP), concentrating in Terrorism and Substate Violence. Before he begins his program in the fall, he will study Turkish through a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship and research great power competition in the Arctic through an internship with the Hudson Institute.

While he is still working out his plans for the long-term, Britt says that his time at SFS has ensured that the possibilities are limitless. 

“I want to help make humanity a multi-planetary species and help ensure everyone on earth has the means to live a happy, healthy and productive life, no matter what country they were born in,” he says. “I still have some exploring to do before I discover a role that will best allow me to work towards these goals, but I know that the SFS has given me the tools to excel when I do.”

Britt and three friends are pictured on a snowy mountaintop. They carry ice axes.
Britt and friends summited Villarrica Volcano, Chile during his SFS study abroad experience in the country.