Virtual Hallway Chat with Security Studies Program Fellows | 2020 | News

Virtual Hallway Chat with Security Studies Program Fellows
Brittany Logan
SSP Fellows 2020-2021

Looking back at a fall semester like no other, we catch up with current Military, Stanton Nuclear Security, and Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Fellows to find out what they’ve been up to and how they’ve managed their fellowships in the midst of a pandemic and presidential election.


The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity.

We’re wrapping up a semester that has been defined by both the pandemic and the presidential election. How are you staying sane and healthy? Have you been able to interact with the other fellows despite restrictions?

Commander Trevor Prouty, Military Fellow- US Navy

I have always had a rule that I refused to run outside when the temperature was below forty degrees Fahrenheit. It only took until October to realize that rule would require modification in Boston. Amazon was kind enough to deliver the appropriate cold-weather running paraphernalia, so I am back "on track" if you will.

[Some of the fellows] did meet for socially-distanced outside gatherings two or three times before the weather turned colder.

Audrye Wong, Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Fellow

Interaction has been challenging overall, but the Grand Strategy fellows had a few interesting discussions over Zoom, including one where I had the opportunity to present some ongoing research and receive very helpful feedback.

Lieutenant Colonel John Black, Military Fellow- US Marine Corps

[My wife and I have been staying sane] by being grateful for what we have and focusing on things within our control (i.e., actions, attitudes, behaviors, and conduct). For fun, my wife and I ran a marathon on Halloween.

Tyler Bowen, Stanton Fellow

To keep my sanity, I go on long runs, drive to places to get carry out (which has been a surprisingly good way to try the local restaurant scene), and schedule Zoom sessions with my friends. I interact with the other fellows mostly through the SSP seminars and other Security Studies workshops over Zoom.

What project(s) are you working on? Is there anything you would love to work on or people you'd like to work with before your fellowship ends?

Heather Williams, Stanton Fellow

I'm primarily working on arms control theory—why do states cooperate to limit their strategic weapons? There are some under-explored historical cases around attempts to limit seapower and airpower that are really fascinating. I'd actually like to interact more with the PhD students to bounce around ideas: I have a European PhD so I think I missed out on a lot of the methodological training and engagement with the "canon" that they are receiving.

[Editor’s note: Check out Heather’s recent article, “What the Nuclear Ban Treaty Means for America’s Allies” at War on the Rocks.]

Brian Novchich, Military Fellow- US Air Force

I’m working on my Air Force research paper (slowly), and preparing my IAP [Independent Activities Period] presentation for the MIT faculty in January. I’ve realistically given up the idea of a working on anything on campus, so at this point I’m really just looking forward to some great classes in the spring semester!

Renanah Joyce, Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Fellow

This fall, I’ve been working on revising a couple papers from my dissertation to submit for publication and finishing up some data collection for the book project that (thankfully!) can be done remotely. I also had the chance to start some conceptual work on the future of US basing and power projection in contested environments that has been a really intellectually stimulating side project.

Colonel Scott Synowiez, Military Fellow- US Army

The Army War College has us write two papers. Both of mine focus on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and Smart Cities. I look forward to taking Taylor Fravel’s spring class on China to focus on some of my arguments.

Favorite moment so far of the semester?

Renanah Joyce, Statecraft Fellow

Probably the first day working in my office in E40. I know, in any other year that might seem a bit sad, but this year it felt like a victory!

John Black, Military Fellow- US Marine Corps

My favorite SSP moments occurred when students had "aha" moments during Zoom classes. I could see their eyes widen, hear their voices change, and feel the joy caused from their epiphany. 

I also enjoyed hearing Dick Samuels speak Japanese with one of his international students to ensure the student could understand the concept the class was discussing. I thought that was very compassionate and empathetic, which I value.

Heather Williams, Stanton Fellow

The Stanton Fellows conference. It was an incredible opportunity to present my research to such an esteemed and group of academics and experts with policy experience. Their feedback was really helpful in guiding the future of my research, but they were also really encouraging about my project and inspired me a bit.

Scott Synowiez, Military Fellow- US Army

My favorite moments have been the interactions with the teachers and students inside my classes. Hearing the different educated views and the discussion that have come from them have been refreshing. I enjoyed playing in the Taiwan Wargame held jointly between MIT and the Navy Post Graduate School.

My favorite moment outside of the classroom is when I drove with my family to Western Massachusetts while all the leaves were changing and seeing the natural splendor. I have been living in the American Southwest for the last few years, and to see the trees change was special.   

Brian Novchich, Military Fellow- US Air Force

I would have to say I really enjoy all the Wednesday Seminar events. It is an amazing experience to listen and interact with the talented guests and faculty! Outside of SSP, all the hiking trips we’ve taken have been the best and most relaxing way to live out these COVID times.

Tyler Bowen, Stanton Fellow

My favorite moment was the Jack Ruina dinner talk with former Secretary of State William Perry. It was incredible to hear the perspective of someone with so much passion and experience in foreign affairs. Outside of SSP, my favorite moment so far was watching Notre Dame beat Clemson in college football. As an ND alum that was exhilarating.

Trevor Prouty, Military Fellow- US Navy

Christian Brose's attendance at the Wednesday Lecture Series stands out as a highlight. I respect the tremendous work he has done in national security policy, and believe he clearly articulates the organizational and technical challenges that we face in the coming decades.

My favorite moment outside of SSP consisted of a family trip on a beautiful fall day to Franconia Notch State Park. In setting alone, it reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story The Diamond as Big as the Ritz; a spectacular natural wonder hidden away in plain sight.

Please click on these links to learn more about our Military, Stanton and Statecraft Fellows.