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Laura Kaplan Murray 2017 Walton Award Winner

Dr. Laura Kaplan Murray is a native of Washington, DC, where she attended local public schools, and developed an early interest in world affairs and foreign cultures. She earned a B.A. degree in Anthropology from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and a Ph.D. in Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, specializing in Modern Chinese History. Her graduate work included two years of intensive advanced Chinese at the Inter-University Center (also known as the Stanford Center) in Taipei, Taiwan, and a follow-on summer at Northwest University in Xi’an, China.


Dr. Murray has been a career employee of the National Security Agency since 1985. Her diverse career has spanned assignments in language analysis, open source exploitation, collection management, training, research, and foreign affairs. She has had extensive management experience, leading projects and missions from the team to the office level, and has served in various locations in the United States and overseas.


The language field has been an enduring focus of her work. Earlier in her career, she served as President of the Crypto-Linguistic Association, NSA’s professional association for members of the language field; as Deputy Dean of the Center for Language (now the College of Language and Area Studies) at the National Cryptologic School, and Technical Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Language.


From 2006 to 2008 she served as the Director, Foreign Language Program Office (FLPO), Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In that position she had a major impact on national-level programs and policy for foreign language, chairing the Foreign Language Executive Committee (FLEXCOM), and providing information and recommendations to senior government officials and members of Congress. While at the ODNI, she launched the STARTALK program, which provides introductory language training for K-16 students, and teacher professional development, in 11 critical languages. STARTALK continues to be a robust program which has provided learning opportunities for more than 62,000 students and teachers in all 50 states. Dr. Murray was awarded a National Intelligence Certificate of Distinction in 2010 for being “singularly responsible” for the creation of STARTALK. While at the ODNI she also established Expert Groups under the FLEXCOM, which greatly improved integration and collaboration across the government language community. To improve collaboration and expertise among government language teachers, she initiated the Language Education and Research Network (LEARN), which has broken barriers between government language teaching institutions and encouraged shared innovations.


Since 2011 Dr. Murray has served as the Technical Director, College of Language and Area Studies, National Cryptologic School (NCS). Her responsibilities include developing and implementing strategic initiatives on behalf of language and area studies training, and fostering effective collaboration between the NCS and the broader government language and area studies community. One of her major projects has been the launch of the Tailored Language Training Initiative (TLTI), a research-based experimental training program to match language instruction methods to student cognitive aptitudes, and to guide the training with better use of assessments. After two successful pilots which showed strong results in student performance, the concept is being expanded to offer tailored training to a wider range of students.


Dr. Murray was recognized in 2015 for her outstanding lifetime contributions to the cryptologic language field as the recipient of the Crypto-Linguistic Association’s prestigious Sydney Jaffe award, which is bestowed on one individual annually.


Throughout her career, Dr. Murray has maintain a deep interest in Chinese affairs, including research and teaching. She has conducted original research and written and lectured on such topics as strategic deception, disaster response capabilities, pro-democracy movements, and the significance of soft power. For more than 20 years she has been an Adjunct Faculty member at the National Cryptologic School, teaching popular courses on China to hundreds of students, and mentoring numerous Adjunct Faculty aspirants.