Student Spotlight: Kiara Colon

As a senior intelligence analyst for the Department of Defense, Kiara is using the MAIR program to learn how she can strengthen U.S. ties with other nations. She also serves as president of AU’s International Relations Online Student Forum and communications director for SIS.

Kiara Colon

Kiara Colon-Torres, MAIR ’19:  Strengthening Our Ties with Other Nations

After seven years in Air Force intelligence, Kiara Colon-Torres is clear about her professional goals.

“Working with other countries’ military forces, I’ve seen how important other nations are to U.S. policies and priorities,” she said. “At the end of the day, my goal is to strengthen these ties.”

Today, she’s pursuing that goal—both as a senior intelligence analyst for a Department of Defense contractor in South Carolina and as a student in American University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) program.

Unexpected Career Advancement and a Surprising Online Experience

Colon-Torres joined the military to serve her country and get a college education. While serving across South Korea, Germany, and the U.S., she earned her undergraduate degree in international relations online through American Military University.

“After leaving active duty, it was a natural progression to start working as a government contractor and enroll in American University’s master’s program,” she said. “AU allowed me the flexibility to balance my career and my education. It even gave me the opportunity to qualify for a job that I wasn’t expecting to be able to get until I graduated.”

But rapid career advancement wasn’t Colon-Torres’s only surprise at AU.

Based on her experience as an undergrad, she didn’t expect much interaction in an online graduate program: “I thought I would be very independent—that I wouldn’t have a lot of interaction with faculty and fellow students. But my experience at AU has been vastly different.”

In fact, Colon-Torres felt it was the same, if not better than a traditional on-campus experience.

“I’ve been able to do group assignments with other students,” she said, “and the faculty are aware that most online grad students are trying to balance full-time jobs, families, and our education.”  

With a husband and two-year-old daughter at home, that balance has been especially important to Colon-Torres.

Supporting Fellow Students 

In addition to working eight- to ten-hour days and studying three to five hours a night, Colon-Torres still finds time to serve as president of AU’s International Relations Online Student Forum and communications director for its School of International Service. In those roles, she focuses on helping her fellow MAIR students feel connected to the student body and AU. 

“We host online discussions and in-person events where students can get together in a small-group setting and have dinner or discuss their priorities,” she said. “Ultimately, I understand that the decision to go to graduate school is a significant one and it’s one that people make in an effort to propel their careers forward. So I’m going to make sure that students have as much information as possible to make an informed decision. And once they are in the program, they don’t have to feel like it is one woman or one man on their own. I want to feel like they are included, and there is a student body to support them.”

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