Rick Spencer


After a 15 year career doing User Experience Design, I have begun my pivot into foreign affairs analysis with a focus on national security. As a result of working in a university, I’ve picked up a handful other skills.

Analytical Writing

Research, analysis and writing are my chief interest and pleasure. My writing is brief and intended to be research-ground and focused on helping leaders take action they can trust. 

US Counterinsurgency Strategy in the Sahel

The deaths of four special operators in Niger late last year introduced the public US military activity in the African Sahel. This band of semi-arid flat land between the Sahara and savannah stretches from Africa’s Atlantic coast across to the Red Sea. It is home to an interlocking network of insurgencies, drug and human trafficking, and terrorist activity.


For five years I was the Editorial Assistant for an academic journal. Most of my professional experience is with academic writing. 

Editing a glossary of sociolinguistic terms for the Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences

One of my most rewarding opportunties was aworking with Dr. Aisa Bitkeeva, a sociolinguist and “Leading Researcher, Research Center on Ethnic and Language Relations” at the Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences. Initially she asked me to read and edit some English journal articles for Sociolinguistica, but I’m not sure they were used, and we pivoted pretty quickly to a much different piece of work.



As a tutor, I have particular experience helping non-native English speakers improve their writing and test-taking strategies, particulary in a graduate-level context. 

Administrative Operations

Administrative Operations involves helping a small unit of four or five staff support a graduate-level academic including roughly 15 faculty, 20 PhDs and most of the marketing, travel, procurement, (some) development, facilities and really any other issue that isn’t explicity student services. Some of the stories below reference that experience.

Leading an Exchange Program Redesign

In 2020, I took responsibility for requesting visa eligibility documents for South Korean applicants to a twelve-year international exchange program in a university graduate department. As I was learning the application process, COVID-19 was grinding international exchange to a halt.


Open Source Research

What I’m good at is helping researchers investigate the context, or think out-of-the-box in order to widen the net of their assessment. Good analysis isn’t just detailed; being thorough means thinking  laterally, imaginatively, boldly, or multidimensionally at times. Let’s get weird.