Featured Alumni Details



Picarelli '97

John Picarelli, ’97, is a program manager for transnational issues at the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research and development branch of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Picarelli focuses on transnational, organized crime, human trafficking and terrorism, among others, and how and how they impact criminal justice sectors at the federal, state, and local levels in the United States.

“We do everything from social science work to technology development to even forensic science,” explained Picarelli. According to Picarelli, his job “is all about translating science to practice, and that’s a lot of what I learned at GSPIA.”

When reflecting on his days at GSPIA, Picarelli remembers “How to bring the theory that we would learn in international security or international political economy and how it would have a practical impact on security policy or criminal justice policy…
GSPIA prepares you well not only for continuing for an academic career if you choose to, but also to continue in a practical realm. GSPIA provides you with the analytical tools you need like policy analysis and the more practical skills like creating presentations, understanding budget cycles, and knowing how to structure memos for impact explained Picarelli.

Picarelli acknowledges the importance of academics, studying… but equally important is gaining “practical experience” through an internship.  Moreover, it’s also important “to hone your skills as a presenter and your writing skills and to better understand how to market yourself as a potential candidate whether you are going to wind up in the federal sector or not.

With an increasingly more competitive job market, Picarelli explains that jobs today you need a “certain self-confidence” and be “secure in your abilities.” Employers are looking for skills beyond the “requisite skills” – “We are looking for people who can come in and operate with a certain level of independence. These are people who can give a presentation, people who can write a PowerPoint, and people who aren’t afraid of going up and discussing matters with secretaries and undersecretaries. That’s really important,” said Picarelli.

As for today’s security threats, Picarelli points to “those things that are transnational.” When I graduated in 1997, transnational was still considered asymmetrical, considered low security, low politics.  What we have seen over the 20 years since then is the continued evolution of transnational threats.  So now we are not only concerned about transnational organized crime, and human trafficking but also about cyber issues and proliferation issues and the role of nongovernmental organizations in security and I think this is all going to continue to evolve over the next 20 years,” explained Picarelli.

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
3601 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260