Emergence Alumna Making a Difference: Meng Plants Seeds of Change in CBP

In the six months between finishing her Master’s Degree in Homeland Security from American Military University (AMU) in October 2022 and starting the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Emergence Program in June 2023, Jiaru Meng (Emergence cohort 2301) completed all of the CHDS Self-study courses whenever she had downtime. “I would say that I am good at utilizing whatever resources we have, or I [am] given,” she says.

Emergence alumna Jiaru Meng

Meng immigrated from China in 2012, following her brother and their parents. She earned a college degree before she immigrated and had always wanted to pursue higher education in the United States. Her brother is an Army veteran and a current member of the Los Angeles County’s Sheriff Department as a patrol deputy. During her brother’s job search after his service, Meng realized she could apply for a government job because she was a U.S. citizen with a college degree. She joined the Los Angeles International Airport’s Customs and Border Protection (LAX CBP) in August 2019. She found out about CHDS the same way she had discovered her AMU Master’s Program: CBP email facilitation.

She encourages her colleagues to browse the CHDS website, especially the Self-study courses, and “to read the emails of every opportunity that CBP is offering. Don’t just see it and delete it,” she said. “I read the email; now I know there was a Homeland Security major. That piece of information got me a master’s degree.”

For Meng and her brother, the opportunity to work for the government is not one they take for granted. In China, she said that avenue was not open to them “without any connection or background,” but in the United States, they have “the privilege” that “everybody has equal opportunity,” and as a result, they could “feel so much more appreciated, and my brother and I were able to get the jobs.”

Her work with the LAX CBP gave her the idea for her Change Initiative. She said she was given the opportunity to work on both the field team and in the target side of operations, which helped her realize the workload was being duplicated due to a 10-year-old database that was not connected to the centralized system. “I didn’t know how to make change or how to approach or how to tell anybody,” said Meng. She knew it was not best practice though, and “after I started the Emergence Program, I had the opportunity to really dig into, ‘Okay. What is causing this? Why are we doing this?’ And how to make a change.” Meng referred to her Change Initiative as a small idea that grew into something bigger; it was an idea which was implemented thanks to teamwork and created a collective attitude of encouragement amongst her colleagues.

Meng feels fortunate, as her Change Initiative received “the full support of our management team who prioritize innovation as one of the top priorities.” This was a turning point for the team, said Meng. Her colleagues “not only lent their support but also actively participated in the implementation process. It’s truly a collaborative effort.” After the successful implementation of her Change Initiative within her agency, “I noticed a significant change in the attitude among my colleagues. They approached me with genuine curiosity and [asked] how I managed to bring such transformative change within CBP.”

While it was incredibly gratifying to have the full support of her management team, Meng is overjoyed to enjoy the camaraderie with her peers as they grow as a team, especially when they “indicate a desire to contribute their own ideas to make CBP even better. I clearly remember a colleague came to me like, ‘Hey Meng, if I ever have something, I will come to you and you help me, we’ll get another idea, another project implemented.’ Meng loves the discussion and collaboration with her team as they focus on how they create solutions. “They are thinking [about] what their idea is and what else they want me to do,” said Meng.

Meng is actively engaged in various projects aimed at driving positive change. “I learned how to pitch, how to identify the root cause of a problem, how to identify the solution, and how to work with my colleagues for the collaboration,” said Meng. She is always looking forward to the future.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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