U.S. competitive intel/security expert named first woman, first alum to head Mercyhurst University's pioneering Intelligence Studies Program

Lindy Smart lauded as one of three practitioners worldwide who has 'advanced the field of competitive intelligence in remarkable ways'

Erie, PA, April 13, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mercyhurst University announced today that it has hired a renowned expert in the field of competitive intelligence and corporate security to lead its pioneering Intelligence Studies Department within the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies & Applied Sciences.

Lindy Smart, 37, a product of what is highly regarded as the first and among the largest programs of its kind in academia, returns to the Mercyhurst Intelligence Studies Department on the eve of its 30th anniversary. She leaves behind a highly touted career at Target Corporation, where she developed and implemented competitive intelligence risk strategy and rose through the ranks to become director of competitive intelligence.  

“As the nation’s preeminent academic institution at the nexus of interdisciplinary education, technology, and talent development for the intelligence community, we believe Lindy’s extensive service in the area of competitive intelligence will help expand Mercyhurst’s strategic focus in this area,” said Mercyhurst President Kathleen Getz.

Effective May 2, Smart becomes the first female and the first alum to hold the post of executive director of the Mercyhurst Intelligence Studies Department.

She summed it up this way: “As a first-generation college grad, this is a moment of great pride. As an Erie native, this is a homecoming. As an alum—earning my two-year, four-year, and master’s degrees all here at Mercyhurst—this is an honor. And as a successor to incredible leaders and passionate professionals who came before me, this is a privilege.”

Smart’s career with the Fortune 500 behemoth began in 2011, soon after earning her master’s degree in applied intelligence from Mercyhurst. As a corporate security analyst, she distinguished herself by establishing Target’s omnichannel fraud investigations program and became known across the industry as a subject matter expert for omnichannel and mobile gift card fraud.

Her rise through the ranks at Target can best be described as “meteoric,” according to one industry source. In 2018, at the age of 33, she was named director of competitive intelligence for the Minneapolis-based retailer, where she was responsible for overseeing intelligence operations affecting its 1,926 U.S. stores.

In returning to her alma mater, Smart represents a manifestation of Mercyhurst’s commitment to providing multiple pathways to learning. She began her Mercyhurst career at its former North East campus where she earned an associate degree in criminal justice in 2004. She then worked with the Barber National Institute’s group homes program, where she learned firsthand that “everyone has different gifts, everyone has different joy.”

From 2006 to 2009, she was at the Erie campus where she focused her studies on the liberal arts, earning a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. During that time, she developed a love for literary analysis, identifying themes, and crafting arguments. Witnessing that passion and skill set, professors guided her toward intelligence studies, where from 2009 to 2011, she pursued her master’s degree in applied intelligence, earning the coveted Sister Eustace Taylor Graduate Student Award.

Former Mercyhurst Intelligence Studies Professor Kris Wheaton, J.D., said Smart was a top student in the university’s intel program whose career he has followed ever since.

“Target has done a huge turnaround since Lindy started her career with them,” Wheaton said. “A lot of their success has to do with their keen understanding of the competitive marketplace, and much of that has coincided with Lindy’s time there.”

In fact, just recently, the international Council of Competitive Intelligence Fellows inducted Smart as one of three practitioners worldwide who has “advanced the field of competitive intelligence in remarkable ways.” In making the announcement, the council said, “Smart has excelled at both CI practitioner and CI consultant roles and has most recently built Target’s first dedicated Competitive Intelligence Team to, in just three short years, provide C-level stakeholders with best-in-class capabilities.”

Smart’s leadership marks a new dawn for the Ridge College’s intel program that originated in 1992 with a national security emphasis, which grew exponentially post 9-11.  Today, a growing number of the university’s intelligence studies majors are seeking careers in competitive intelligence with the goal of working in the private sector, much like Smart.

In fact, Ridge College Dean John Olszowka said 71 percent of the projects managed through Mercyhurst’s Center for Information Research and Training (CIRAT), where intelligence studies students gain hands-on analytic experience through paid contractual employment, are in the field of competitive intelligence.

“I’m involved in multiple intelligence networks and what strikes me is the speed at which corporations are evolving and elevating their programs,” said Smart, adding that the job market for competitive intelligence analysts is “huge.”  

Much of that, she noted, is a manifestation of COVID-19’s impact on business. As many businesses had to shutter or transition to remote work, leaders needed answers about how best to navigate the new environment.

“They had to get smart about new types of operations and revenue streams, and they needed to make those decisions quickly,” she said.

Despite the emergence of more and more intelligence programs at U.S. universities, Smart said Mercyhurst is still the premier institution in that discipline and is in an ideal position to develop the skill sets for the growing demand in competitive intelligence.

She said, “I’ve been to conferences where I’ve heard speakers and went up to them after and said, ‘You went to Mercyhurst, didn’t you?’ The level of clear, concise communication and rigor applied to problem-solving definitely sets Mercyhurst apart.”

She also said that with global conflicts like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the rising threat of wide-scale cyber-attacks, she expects Mercyhurst’s national security programming, already highly regarded worldwide, to continue to be a draw for the next generation of intelligence analysts.   

“I want to be part of the evolution of intelligence at Mercyhurst, and be at the forefront of shaping it,” she said.




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