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Izolda Masic Finds Meaning, Mission in a New World, at Notre Dame

St. Catherine of Alexandria Award in Security Policy Studies

A native of Novi Sad, Serbia, Izolda Masic survived two wars in 26 years and a 74-day bombing in 1991.

In her homeland—where a single dictator controlled the public dissemination of information—her personal computer was her connection to the outside world. She would scour the Internet and social media for news accounts of her police state. She would seek out multiple sources and study diverse data to uncover discrepancies and distinguish meaning.

Masic said she always knew she did not belong in Serbia, so she sought out a new world. She left everything familiar, all she loved, and came to America with one suitcase, knowing only one person, and found her mission—through the master of security policy studies program and the enlightened community at Notre Dame College.

Recognized not only for her academic rigor but also her research acumen, Masic is the first Master of Arts degree in security policy studies graduate from Notre Dame to receive the St. Catherine of Alexandria Award. She was honored during the College’s 2013 graduate commencement ceremony.

“Masic epitomizes what a graduate student should be: dedicated, hard-working and inquisitive,” said Kelley Cronin, Ph.D., associate professor of political science. “She often took the lead on group assignments and was supportive of her classmates. She is open to new and uncommon ideas. She has a flair for refining and extending arguments.”

At Notre Dame, Masic specialized in open source intelligence, consuming public records, traffic statistics, satellite images and additional resources. Her specialty is correlating that data with Twitter, Facebook and other international Internet sites to piece together the puzzles of homeland security incidents.

Her master’s degree class capstone project included analysis of incidents ranging from the series of three coordinated bomb explosions at different locations in Mumbai, India, in 2011 to the two bombs recently detonated at the end of the Boston Marathon.

As part of a team creating best practices on collecting and filtering social media for intelligence agencies, Masic and her fellow graduates recently presented their findings to the Northeast Ohio Regional Fusion Center, an inter-agency information sharing initiative of the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Department of Justice.

Masic’s academic interests included emergency management and critical infrastructure, as well as terrorism and homeland security.

According to John G. Hatzadony, Ph.D., director of the graduate program in security policy studies and assistant professor of intelligence studies, Masic uses her Serbian background—in which she finds opportunities, as well as threats—to educate others. 

“She is fearless, a free spirit and has found her meaning,” Hatzadony said.

In addition to her coursework, Masic served as a graduate assistant in the online development department at the College, where she researched legislation and completes applications for the authorization of Notre Dame’s Internet and distance learning programs in all 50 states.

Masic earned a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in banking management from Alpha University in Belgrade, Serbia, and a master’s degree in industrial engineering management with a minor in investment management from the University of Technical Sciences in Serbia. She previously worked as an outbound sales consultant for Studio Moderna DOO, a home shopping vendor in Novi Sad, where 10 different times she was ranked in the top 10 among 500 sales consultants.

A member of the former Yugoslavia, the former Serbia and Montenegro and the Serbia national water polo teams and nine-time Serbian National Champion and National Cup winner, Masic also was an assistant water polo coach at Notre Dame.

She is fluent in Serbian and English; proficient in German and Hungarian; and can read Russian, Czech, Slovenian and most Romance languages.

Masic plans to remain in Ohio and find full-time work as an analyst with a homeland security agency.