In 2009, a former FBI employee spoke to a Richmond high school history class about his work for the government, particularly his role in the investigation of counterintelligence agent- turned-traitor Robert Hanssen.
Among the students that day was Scott Foster; from that day forward, Scott knew he wanted to protect and serve his country by pursuing a career in criminal justice.
Scott is now a senior psychology major at Hampden-Sydney and, despite not officially studying criminal justice, he is well on his way to a career in that field. He has used the College's liberal arts curriculum and an internship at the FBI to gather the variety of skills necessary to flourish in the intelligence industry.
"I took a government class during my freshman year to test those waters, but psychology really fascinated me. During my sophomore year, I found out about the National Security and Military Leadership Program and I decided to pursue that as a minor, too."
His internship with the Bureau this past summer gave him a first-hand view of what exactly it is that special agents do on a daily basis. He helped special agents organize evidence they had collected, and during his first week, he even helped execute a search warrant. Scott also went to Quantico to witness former Director Robert Mueller's last graduation of new special agents and to learn a bit about profiling at the Bureau's Behavioral Science Unit.
Though he is back on campus, Scott is not finished with the FBI. He is continuing his internship during the academic year and returns to the Richmond Field Office two days a month to maintain his security clearance, which he considers one of the most important things he took away from the experience. He learned a lot, too: "It helped me think critically. It exposed me to the technology they have at the Bureau, to how they work cases and solve crimes, and to how the Bureau is organized-all of the different roles. Later this will put me a step ahead of other applicants."
Scott is building off of his experience at the Bureau by conducting a senior psychology thesis investigating the deterrence of false memory in eyewitness testimony-how people form memories when they witness a crime and how their memories of that event can change.
"Specifically, I am looking at the misinformation effect," says Scott, "which is essentially if [witnesses] are presented with misinformation- through a narrative or through a radio broadcast, for example-that misinformation will become part of their memory and therefore become a false memory. I am looking at how to break through that misinformation and retrieve the actual memory."
Among the psychology faculty, Scott has an outstanding reputation. Dr. Daniel G. Mossler, who has been Scott's academic advisor for three years, says, "Scott's work in the classroom is outstanding. He is bright, focused, and I think it's safe to say an over-achiever. I mean that in a good way. When I post something on the electronic board, other students might write a couple of paragraphs, and he writes a book. Personally, Scott is funny with an interesting sense of humor. He's kind of like me; people don't seem to know when I'm making a joke. So, we get along like that."
Outside of the classroom, Scott is an active Chi Phi fraternity brother. He says, "Everybody thinks fraternities are all about the partying, but there's more to it than that. It's about forming good friendships with the brothers. When Chi Phi returned to campus, I was already friends with many of the guys involved in the re-founding, so it made sense that I would be a part of it too. Now we have a more formal bond; I can call them my Chi Phi brothers for life."
It should be no surprise that Scott has excelled academically and socially. After visiting campus many times with his brother Dr.Jonathan T. Schaaf '07, those qualities are what convinced him to attend Hampden-Sydney too.
Scott says, "I was attracted to Hampden-Sydney by a combination of the student life and the curriculum. I really liked how everybody knew one another and how they formed a brotherhood. Since I had been coming up to football games, I had seen everyone saying 'Hi, how are you,' and that sort of thing. I really liked the hospitality side of the College, as well. Also, the rhetoric program, which I know some of us really struggle with, is a great curriculum. I knew that learning how to write well and how to think critically would put me over other candidates in the future."
Professor Mossler agrees that Scott is well positioned for the future. "When I think about our mission-to create good men and good citizens-I think he could be a poster boy for us. Scott is a quality human being."
Scott knows the competition is tough for positions at the FBI, but he is confident in his ability, steadfast in his plan, and thorough in his execution-all attributes that will serve him well when he becomes Special Agent Foster.