Prillwitz hopes to bring evidence-based, data-driven decision making to his work as an intelligence analyst and counterterrorism manager in the US Air Force.
Ronald Prillwitz, Headshot in Uniform
Ronald Prillwitz

When he was in high school, Ronald Prillwitz saw many friends and family members “disappear” from his neighborhood to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq. He decided to join the Air Force, not only to join those who had been deployed, but also in hopes that he might better understand the reasons behind war, terrorism, and extremism, and the measures that could be taken to prevent them. 

As of 2020, Prillwitz has served for 13 years as an intelligence analyst and manager of counterterrorism efforts, both domestically and abroad. He has traveled widely and worked with linguists from many countries to neutralize terrorist threats.  

Following multiple deployments in Afghanistan from 2014–16, Prillwitz developed an understanding of the ways war and terrorism affect communities and individuals. “When you travel to places that have gone through upheaval—as opposed to watching it on the news—you think of it a lot differently. You are actually there, working directly with the people who deal with the issues day to day.” He says that this firsthand experience will deeply inform his studies at Harris.

Prillwitz applied to Harris through the Air Force Career Intermission Program, which provides professional development opportunities in order to encourage retention. For every year he spends in school, he will spend two more in the Air Force. He has already earned a BA in Community Development and Public Administration through a similar program, which paid for his education while he continued working. The Career Intermission Program will allow him to focus entirely on academics while in school.

When he starts at Harris this fall, Prillwitz intends to apply for the MBA program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in hopes of earning a joint MPP/MBA at UChicago. For his Master of Public Policy degree, Prillwitz plans to focus his studies on global conflict, especially the issues which surround terrorism and extremism. And as a Pearson Fellow, he will have the opportunity to participate in events such as the Global Forum and the Pearson International Conflict Seminars.

He plans to use Harris’ quantitative focus to develop his analytic capabilities and bring those valuable skills back to his squadron. “Harris emphasizes evidence-based, data-driven decision making, and that is sometimes unfortunately lacking in the military. Hopefully, I can bring back that critical thinking and use it as a leader in the Air Force.” 

Prillwitz has already begun giving back to the armed services as an organizer and grant writer for Project Diehard, a nonprofit that provides support for veterans struggling with mental health or transitioning back to the civilian world. And in August 2019, he started Policy Theory, his own nonprofit based out of Hawaii, which helps various nonprofits like Project Diehard get started.

His ultimate goal is to become a squadron commander and to make an impact on the lives of his fellow Airmen. He recalls his first Senior Enlisted Leader, Chief Master Sergeant, Troy Eden, who made time to mentor him one-on-one, and helped him to focus his goals on both a professional and personal level. He attributes much of his early success to him, and hopes to make a similar impact on others one day. 

“For me, one of the most important aspects of my job is taking care of my subordinates, especially the more junior Airmen… it’s important for me to make sure that they are doing well,  because I grew up in poverty, and the military gave me such an important opportunity and completely changed my life on so many different levels. When new people come into the military, I want to make sure they get the most out of their experience.” 

When he comes to Harris this fall, Prillwitz plans to establish connections with veterans on campus. “I especially hope to find opportunities to guide other veterans through the process of continuing their education.”