Carnegie Mellon University

Raaga Kalva

May 10, 2021

Alumni Spotlight: Raaga Kalva

By Bill Brink

Raaga Kalva knew she wanted to work in Washington, DC. The Germantown, Maryland native chose Carnegie Mellon University rather than the University of Maryland because she wanted to broaden her experiences. That decision played a role in getting her where she wanted to be.

At a CMU educational opportunities conference, Kalva reconnected with a former classmate who went on to become a recruiter for the Defense Intelligence Agency. That recruiter helped Kalva get a job with the DIA as a Military Capabilities Analyst.

“When looking for jobs, I’ve always been a big advocate of students reaching out to alumni as well as taking advantage of the opportunities on campus,” said Kalva, who graduated in 2019 with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in International Relations and Politics.

Kalva earned both degrees in five years through the Institute for Politics and Strategy’s Accelerated Master of Science in International Relations and Politics program. She knew she wanted to major in IRP when she applied.

“I really, really liked the idea of having be a BS versus a BA program, which it is in most schools,” Kalva said. “I liked that we got to tie in a lot of things with statistical and data analysis, which I thought would be very valuable skills in the workforce.”

Kalva loved the classes she took with Drs. Molly Dunigan, Geoffrey McGovern, and Colin Clarke. She enjoyed a class with Dr. Jay Aronson about the international laws that govern drone warfare; an international security policy course with Dr. Albrecht Funk; and a class with Dr. Anna Pechenkina about decision-making structures within terrorist organizations. Drs. Daniel Silverman, Daniel Hansen, and Ignacio Arana were all huge influences on her, both in school and after graduation.

“It was very cool to me that I got to work with faculty from a lot of different disciplines, but all still focusing in the same political sphere,” Kalva said. “As I grew and explored different options within the Institute and within the major, the fact that it could be so many different things that I focused on and used so many different skills was attractive to me.” 

The exposure to politicians, government and military officials, academics, and thought leaders that IPS brings to campus through its Policy Forum confirmed for Kalva that she was on the right path. She found that her desire to attend the talks revealed more about her ideal career than more arbitrary measures.

“Any time I would see a topic of a talk, I was really excited to go and learn, to participate, to engage,” she said. “I had friends that didn’t really feel the same way about the extracurricular stuff, even though they were fine in class. Participating in all those external things, I think, gives you an idea earlier on about what kind of career is this going to be, what options are available, what kind of things can you get into, and does it excite you? Are you interested in those external talks, things that are not immediately related to what you absolutely have to do?”

Kalva wanted to study abroad, but did not want to sacrifice her coursework to do so, so she compromised with the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program. She spent the spring of 2017 in DC and interned in the office of Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown, an experience that put a congressional career on her radar for the future. 

“I liked that it was fast-paced, you were working directly with constituents sometimes, and also with policy makers and interest groups,” she said. “You get a very large range of skills and interest levels in different topics. I also liked the idea that this is really where change happens. We’re at the end of the process in all of the research and advocacy and effort, and this is where it comes to fruition.”

Kalva also interned with Lockheed Martin as an intelligence analyst, developing tools to mitigate security breaches, and with Ameriinfo Vets, a software company in her hometown that exposed to her the contract and grant side of what she was doing at Lockheed Martin. As graduation approached, she attended the EOC, where she reconnected with her former classmate.

“She recognized me and we were able to talk, and she saw my résumé and she thought I would be a good fit,” Kalva said.

As a Military Capabilities Analyst, Kalva focuses on foreign armed forces, isolating threats and deciding how to best serve policy makers facing various problems. She draws upon her studies at CMU – international relations theory, the interplay between realism and liberalism – to determine the actions foreign countries might take. Given the way in which she got the job, it makes sense that her advice to current students is to make use of their alumni network.

“Use your LinkedIn,” she said. “Look at organizations that you’re interested. Chances are a CMU alumnus works there, and reach out. Always be reaching out, talking to people, to understand what your options are, because there are more things out there than you would think.”