APU Careers & Learning Editor's Pick Online Learning Original

APUS Alumni Stories: Investigating People and Culture

By Melanie Conner, APUS Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and Brandon Halaychik, AMU Graduate

Chinese philosopher Mencius once said that the best things in life come in threes. For AMU graduate Brandon Halaychik, that meant pursuing three degrees and three careers.

Brandon Halaychik
Brandon Halaychik

Brandon earned his associate degree in military history in 2014. He went on to earn a bachelor’s in international relations in 2016 and a master’s in national security studies in 2019.

Three Different Degrees for Three Different Careers

Brandon’s three degrees led him to three separate careers. Immediately after the completion of his master’s program, Brandon started a company, Dark Raven Investigations. The company conducts private investigations and provides protective service operations for diplomats and executives. Dark Raven Investigations also offers training for corporate and government clients on various topics, ranging from criminal street gang investigations to open-source intelligence collection.

In addition, Brandon works as an internal affairs investigator, conducting investigations into employee misconduct with the Orange County Corrections Department, in Orlando, Florida. He recently hit 20 years at the company.

Brandon observes, “Ever since as I was a child, I always wanted to work in law enforcement as the work fascinated me. Dark Raven Investigations is my retirement project, as I only have about 5 years left in my career with Orange County. As I have a military, law enforcement and investigative background, this just seemed like a natural fit.”

Furthermore, Brandon is a Visiting Fellow with the Moscow Finance and Law University, located in Moscow, Russia. He began this role in 2018 while attending AMU.

His responsibilities include conducting live lectures via online platforms such as Adobe Connect. Brandon teaches Russian students who are learning English and lectures on topics that he is passionate about, such as American culture, history, and politics.

Becoming a Cultural Diplomacy Intern to Work with Russians

In November 2017, Brandon applied for the Virtual Student Federal Service Program offered by the United States Department of State. The program offers internships for students to every branch of the government, including the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of State and the Executive Branch.

Brandon expressed an interest in working with the State Department on Russian-related projects. In 2018, he was selected to be a Cultural Diplomacy Intern with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

Brandon says, “During this time, I developed and conducted lectures on a wide range of topics every two weeks to Russian citizens coming to the embassy based on U.S. State Department guidance. During these lectures, I was asked if I would be interested in conducting lectures at the Moscow Finance and Law University, an offer which I eagerly accepted.”

Brandon’s family is originally from Russia, having immigrated to the United States around the early 1900s. He has always wanted to connect with the Russian people and has found that teaching at Moscow Finance and Law University has allowed him this opportunity. He says, “It has been extremely rewarding as I have been able to dispel misconceptions the Russian students had about Americans, and have promoted diplomacy and mutual understanding between the two nations.”

Brandon’s AMU Degrees Were Invaluable for Writing National Security Books

Brandon notes that the knowledge he gained from all three of his degree programs led him to a fourth career: writing his books on national security topics. He says, “My degrees in military history, international relations, and national security studies, and my interactions with Russians, led me to writing my two books.

“I became interested in writing my first book ‘Offensive Structural Realism and Russian Expansion into the Arctic,’ as the result of research I conducted during my international relations degree. There was a lot of information about Russia aggressively expanding into the Arctic and attempting to reestablish its dominance in the region to Cold War levels. However, I found that that situation was not necessarily the case, and I thought it was important to provide an unbiased view and interject another possibility.”

Brandon’s second book, “NATO Expansion and Russian Aggressive Posturing,” discusses why Russia really invaded Georgia and the Ukraine. Brandon focused a lot of what he wrote in his second book based on his thesis research.

What motivated him to focus on the Russia invasion of Georgia and the Ukraine? Brandon says, “Again, there was a lot of information that I found that pointed to Russia attempting to reestablish its imperial ambitions in Eastern Europe. However, everything I read failed to point to the underlying concern of the Russian Federation, which was national security. My book takes a very structured, comprehensive look at why Russia actually engaged in these conflicts, which basically boils down to a security buffer zone and NATO expansion into the region.”

Brandon also notes that he selected his degree programs from AMU because they all interested him. He wanted to pursue a national security career to learn more about the inner workings of the national security enterprise.

The information gained from his bachelor’s degree in international relations and the master’s in national security studies helped him tremendously in his work with the Moscow Finance and Law University and the State Department. Both degrees allowed him to understand the various complex issues that affect both nations, create lectures that address these issues, and engage students and Russian citizens effectively with their concerns related to U.S. and Russian relations.

Brandon also sharpened his research and investigative skills while he pursued his degrees. He says, “Some skills that I sharpened during my coursework were how to research, research, research and investigate beyond what was broadcast in the various news outlets.”

Brandon is currently working on a third book. This book compares ancient Roman history to the events currently occurring in the United States.

Overcoming Career Challenges and Bias

In his role as an internal affairs investigator, Brandon says that the biggest challenges he faced was obtaining the knowledge needed to conduct thorough investigations and dealing with preconceived bias by the public and other law enforcement officers. He learned how to conduct thorough research, a skill he gained from his time at AMU, and completed additional training from various law enforcement agencies.

Brandon faced similar challenges in his role as a Visiting Fellow with the Moscow Finance and Law University. In that role, Brandon’s biggest challenges were overcoming preconceived biases by both United States and Russian citizens regarding one another.

Brandon explains, “Specifically, Russians believe that everyone in the United States wants to invade Russia and destroy their culture, which of course is based on years of mistrust and propaganda. People in the United States also have similar views of Russians, again based on years of mistrust.”

He overcame this challenge by building trust: “In reality, the Russian people, just like we here in the United States, enjoy the same things like going to the movies, playing video games, skateboarding, and hanging out with friends. Once this barrier was brought down and mutual trust was developed, it became a lot easier to just have discussions and we really enjoyed our time together.”

Brandon Advises: ‘Stay Motivated and Dedicated to Your Passion’

Brandon’s advice is to stay motivated and dedicated to your passion. He says that while the workdays are long as an investigator, the rewards for serving one’s community are great. He also says, “If you are truly motivated and dedicated to your passion, and the door closes in your face, you either kick the door in or climb through the window until you get where you want to be.”

Melanie Conner is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison at the university. Having worked in higher education for almost 10 years, Melanie enjoys cultivating relationships with students and alumni. She has undergraduate degrees in education from Germanna Community College and in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.

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