‘Praemon’ adds perspective to a black-and-white world

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Praemon’s Latin root translates to “premonition, forewarning and intuition,” but for a group of 15 BYU students it also means “intelligence forum, networking and résumé-builder.”

“Praemon” is the BYU campus national security journal and was created by former BYU student William Snyder in the spring of 2011. At the time, it was simply a way to have discussions about United States foreign affairs and national security interests.

Mike Godfrey, president of Praemon, analyzes the pros and cons of U.S. national interests all over the world. Photo by Natalie Stoker.
Mike Godfrey, president of Praemon, analyzes the pros and cons of U.S. national interests all over the world.
Photo by Natalie Stoker.

“I really do think that it’s kind of a hidden gem at BYU,” said Mike Godfrey, the current president of Praemon. “We would love it if people knew about it and referenced it, but that’s not our goal.”

Godfrey is a senior studying Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. He leads the organization toward a more academic and professional platform than other organizations on campus that rely on student interest. Although Godfrey tries to appeal to both the student body and to professionals in the national security sector, one audience typically comes at the expense of the other.

“We’re kind of in a catch-22 there,” said Abe Collier, a junior who has been a Praemon writer for two months. “We can rank up our analyses and get more of our intended audience — policy makers and politicians and other analysts — or we can appeal to our student body where we would have to write less technical stuff.”

Praemon recently expanded its recognition among such policy makers when it published its first “Annual Threat Report,” which is a collection of seven articles that present the most challenging threats to U.S. national security over the next two years. This publication not only informs intelligence analysts on security concerns, but it also helps the students of Praemon gain recognition among future employers.

Godfrey has been president of Praemon for just over a year, and a lot has changed in Praemon since it began just over two years ago.

“The scope was just that anyone interested could write about any national security topic, and there was really no format and it was all over the place,” Godfrey said of the older model of Praemon. “I’ve changed the overall goal of Praemon to not just be an outlet for national security stuff but to provide a means so that people interested in careers in intelligence and security … can really spice up their résumé.”

Not only do the students at Praemon write academic analyses, they have recently started organizing personal meetings with visitors to campus who specialize in national security and foreign affairs. Gordon Gray, the former ambassador to Tunisia, took extra time during his visit to BYU to speak directly with Praemon writers, as did General Amos Jordan, a former brigadier general and member of George H.W. Bush’s Intelligence Oversight Board.

Students must present a well-written analysis sample article and be interviewed in order to be considered for Praemon. Praemon writers are expected to write in-depth, authentic and cited articles every month on a topic of their choice. Most students write according to their regional interests and educational backgrounds. Collier, who is majoring in philosophy and minoring in Latin American studies, recently wrote about U.S. interests in Mexican energy reform.

“We’ve fought down there in Latin America multiple times to keep countries more on the democracy side of the spectrum,” Collier said. “Some of the most socialist-leaning countries in the world are in Latin America.”

Collier said he used to be fairly focused on being a business major. Dallin McKinnon, a senior who has contributed to Praemon for nearly a year, said Praemon isn’t just an organization of students studying international relations but an outlet for any good writer to present his or her favorite international security concerns.

“The writers that we have are from a bunch of different backgrounds,” McKinnon said. “My interest is getting an MBA, so not as much getting into intelligence or national defense.” McKinnon said his portfolio of articles is just as useful for him in the hands of business employers as it is in the hands of national security officials.

Praemon is mostly an online publication, but all articles are available in PDF format to be printed as well. Collier said he hopes Praemon will eventually become a printed publication as well.

“A paper publication lends a lot of credibility to an organization; otherwise it seems just like a blog,” Collier said. Collier and Godfrey are both optimistic about Praemon’s future and hope more writers and editors will apply and contribute to its success.

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