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Meet the Mentors

January 27, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

The American College of National Security Leaders (ACNSL) and the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill are piloting a program to enable undergraduate and graduate students to explore careers in national security and related fields. 

In Meet the Mentors, five ACNSL mentors will introduce themselves and describe their diverse career backgrounds. Introductions will be followed by breakout sessions in which students can chat with each mentor. Meet the Mentors is a great opportunity for students to find a mentor (or mentors) to meet with throughout the semester during the mentors’ office hours. 

There will be two virtual Meet the Mentors sessions that will kick off the program and serve as an opportunity to introduce the mentors to interested students. 

Register for session 1: Thursday, January 27 | 2-3 p.m.

Register for session 2: Friday, January 28 | 11 a.m.-12 p.m.


Donna Barbisch is the CEO of American College of National Security Leaders. Major General (Retired) Barbisch excels in resiliency and preparedness planning and mitigation across multiple sectors: public health (emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19) and healthcare, counter terrorism, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) and weapons of mass destruction-WMD), and cyber security. She brings more than 30 years of experience from her Army and civilian careers, balancing active and reserve command and staff positions at all levels with distinguished academic and private sector expertise. Barbisch earned a master’s of public health from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1993 and a doctorate in health administration from the Medical University of South Carolina.   

Gerald Feierstein is senior vice president and a distinguished senior fellow on U.S. diplomacy at the Middle East Institute. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in May 2016 after a 41-year career primarily focused in the Middle East and South Asia, including service as ambassador to Yemen. Ambassador Feierstein looks forward to talking to students about careers in the Foreign Service or the Middle East.  

Karen Gibson is the sergeant at arms of the U.S. Senate, having recently concluded a 33-year military career in which she attained the rank of lieutenant general in the U.S. Army. Gibson completed a number of deployments in the Middle East, Afghanistan, East Africa and Korea, where she performed in a variety of intelligence and cyberspace operations roles She culminated her military service as a deputy director of National Intelligence. 

Robert McBrien is retired from the Senior Executive Service, U.S. Department of the TreasuryHaving worked closely with many government agencies, he hopes to provide students with a sense of the breadth of opportunities in national security and foreign affairs. An attorney, he began his long government career as an organized crime prosecutor in the U.S. Justice Department. Moving to Treasury, he worked closely with the Secret Service, Customs Service, ATF and the broader interagency community. McBrien became an authority in the use of U.S. economic sanctions programs, and his initiatives have been a key factor in the development of economic sanctions as a major instrument of national security and foreign policy. He has broad experience with national security, defense, foreign policy, intelligence, law enforcement and legal communities. He participated in the U.S. counter-terrorism program from its 1972 inception to his retirement and in counternarcotics programs from 1985-2012. McBrien serves on the board of advisors of the Center on Economic and Financial Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is treasurer of ACNSL and assists a consortium of organizations working to evacuate U.S. comrades and families from Afghanistan.

Scott O’Meara served over 35 years in the U.S. Marine Corps retiring at the rank of brigadier general in 2018. At senior levels within the Department of Defense, he has twice serviced within the Pentagon as a general officer along with multiple joint and Service component assignments. A naval aviator, he flew combat flight operations during Desert Shield/Storm and multiple Iraqi Freedom tours. Twice commanding in combat, he has commanded at the squadron, aircraft group and Service Component levels. Now retired, he joined Booz Allen Hamilton in March 2019 and advises on joint operations, all-domain operations and information warfare. An avid reader, he enjoys professionally engaging in discussions relating to leadership development, policy and strategy formulation, along with national security. He has a master of science in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, a master of business administration in aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a bachelor of arts in sociology from Ramapo College of New Jersey.

The ACNSL is a non-partisan membership organization of senior national security leaders committed to strengthening the United States national security initiatives by informing the debate, influencing decision-makers and educating the public. ACNSL fellows are retired admirals, generals, ambassadors and senior government executives, and ACNSL associates are retired career military, foreign service and national security officials.

Diplomacy Initiative events are hosted in a partnership between the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs, Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense, and the UNC Area Studies Centers.


January 27, 2022
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm