Yale National Security Law Scholar Asha Rangappa

I’d Really Need to Think to Make a Connection Between Cheerleading and Intelligence Work

Yale National Security Law Scholar Asha Rangappa | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Asha Rangappa is a Yale national security law scholar and former FBI counterintelligence agent. Before taking part in a Zócalo event asking “What Do We Do Now?,” Rangappa called into the virtual green room to chat about acting in community theater, Fulbright memories, and the art of persuasion.

Q:

Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, where was your favorite place to go?


A:

The beach. Virginia Beach was the main attraction, but there was a closer beach called Buckroe Beach. It was still being revitalized when I was there, but I would go there and just hang out with my friends.


Q:

In your spare time, you act in community theater. What’s been your favorite role so far?


A:

Rosalind in As You Like It. The premise of the play is that she’s being mistaken for a man. I think there’s a lot of interesting plays on gender roles, and she’s just one of Shakespeare’s most powerful and witty women.


Q:

You’re a huge Shakespeare buff. What was the first Shakespeare play that stood out to you?


A:

Probably the first play I read was Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade. Like a lot of people, I found it kind of inaccessible at the time. Only later on, when I understood that Shakespeare is meant to be seen and heard, did I start to really appreciate it. Interestingly enough, I still love Romeo and Juliet.


Q:

You were co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad in high school. Is there any connection between cheerleading and intelligence work?


A:

I’d really need to think to make a connection between cheerleading and intelligence work. I guess there’s a persuasion aspect of it, in terms of leading a person or people to be on your side.


Q:

You did your Fulbright in Bogotá, Colombia. What was the best place you visited while you were studying there?


A:

I loved traveling to Cartagena—this goes back to my love of the beach. And also, I loved traveling to Medellín. It’s an absolutely beautiful city, and I really enjoyed spending my time there.


Q:

What teacher or professor changed your life, if any?


A:

[Political science] professor John DiIulio. He was my thesis advisor at Princeton, and he was a mentor also. He helped me in terms of thinking about law school, and I’ve been able to reconnect with him later on, after I got into the professional world.


Q:

What’s your go-to karaoke song?


A:

I have two. One is Britney Spears’ “Oops! ... I Did It Again” and the other is Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.”


Q:

What keeps you up at night?


A:

Trump being president has kept me up at night for the last four years.


Q:

Last question: You’ve shared some great pictures of your cat, Chakli. What’s the best part of being a cat owner?


A:

The challenge. They don’t give out their affection super easily, so you’re always working for it, and it’s extra rewarding when they snuggle.