Celebrating Women Special Agents: Shelia T. (2012)
Special Agent Shelia T. had never considered a career with the FBI until her college roommate took her to a recruiting session. A small-town girl studying to be a research scientist, she applied to the FBI out of curiosity. Now, she is in her 15th year as an agent.
I’m the small town girl from the small town in Mississippi. I’m from Sallis, Mississippi, which when I say small, we’re talking at the last census I believe the population was 102.
My story is slightly different than the other agents at the Academy, some of which I met and it was their dream to be an agent. And of course I can’t say that, having wanted to be a professor and do research. I was actually in a testing and evaluation course at school at Southern Illinois. And a friend of mine who did want to be an agent with the Bureau, there was a recruiting session on campus and she asked me to go because we were going to study together for a test that was coming up and I had the car to drive and get there.
Went in and we sat through the session. She’s listening because she’s interested and I’m basically crocheting in the back waiting for her to finish so we can go study. When she went down to ask questions I kind of moved down closer and I think the agent who was there, I think he thought I had questions so he came over and sat beside me and just chatted with me until the others were finishing up and at the end he gave me an application, and I probably should remember his name but basically he wrote his name on it and gave me the application and said turn this in. And when my friend came over to fill out her application because she needed a typewriter, the forms back then were not electronic, and so she typed hers up and her comment was, “fill yours out, what’s the worst they can do, say no?”
I think I approached it from the point of view that pretty much I can do anything. And perhaps it comes from that small town mentality where my parents didn’t tell us there was anything we couldn’t do. It was always a process of you’re smart, you can do anything. And so I think I approached it from that point of view. Because you when you think about it, small town, small farming community, my father farmed cotton and picked cotton, it was a case of I went to through high school, I went to university, and it was a predominantly white university, Mississippi State. I did a Bachelor’s there, a Master’s there, I taught at community college, I had gone on to work on a PhD at Southern Illinois, I had already defied the odds. Why would the Academy pose such a problem. I’d already overcome hurdles, this was just another hurdle to get over.
And as far as being in the Bureau, I would say that it’s a wonderful journey from coming in as a new agent and being popped into working in the command center for a serial killer case, to taking classes with individuals from NSA and CIA, to touching the lives of parents when you successfully do an examination on a child exploitation case and that person is convicted for what they have done, to going into management in the Bureau and actually helping to facilitate the work of other agents as they go about their business in the field, to simply being part of a wonderful cadre of individuals across the board, I would say as a female and as an agent of the Bureau it’s been an awesome career.
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