Farewell Interview with 2021-2022 Fellows | 2021 | News

A Farewell Interview with the Outgoing 2020-2021 Security Studies Program Fellows
Brittany Logan
Fellows 2020-2021

To cap off an academic year like no other, we asked some of the outgoing fellows of the Military, Stanton, and Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft fellowships to reflect back on their unusual (and completely virtual) year. Read on to find out what the fellows say were their most memorable moments, where to get the best pastries in Boston, and what the fellows wished they’d known in hindsight.

The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity.

1) What were the main highlights of your year at SSP?

Heather Williams, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow

The Stanton Conference in October was an intellectual highlight. It was great to get feedback from the mentors. I also found the structured approach of the conference to be really helpful- it's something I'm going to use with MA and PhD students going forward!

Commander Trevor Prouty, Military Fellow- US Navy

I enjoyed listening to the graduate students' campaign analysis presentations during Professor Posen's US Military Power class. Their perceptive conclusions on potential conflict outcomes demonstrated that an observer does not need a security clearance to make useful contributions to campaign analysis studies.

Tyler Bowen, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow

My first highlight was finishing my dissertation and graduating. Grad school is a long and sometimes grueling enterprise, and it feels great to have completed it. The second highlight was the Jack Ruina dinner and hearing from someone like Secretary William Perry. The third "highlight" was the regular Wednesday Seminars. Not only did they bring in amazing outside scholars, but they contributed to a sense of community in a time where we could not meet or work together in person.

Renanah Joyce, Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Fellow

The SSP Wednesday Seminars were great, both in terms of exposure to interesting research and for cultivating a sense of community over Zoom.

Lieutenant Colonel John Black, Military Fellow- US Marine Corps

Learning from legendary [international relations] professors, speaking with brilliant and budding IR students who will blossom into the next generation of IR academics and policy makers, and eating yummy food and drinking great local beer with the Military Fellows and staff at several great restaurants in the local area.

2) How has your understanding (i.e.: of your field, strategy, international affairs, etc.) changed since arriving at SSP?

Yeajin Yoon, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow

I’ve come to realize that scholars working in the field of security studies and international political economy have more in common than they realize in terms of perspectives. There needs to be more communication and interaction across different disciplines.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian Novchich, Military Fellow- US Air Force

As an operator, I have a very firm grasp of the “pointy end,” so I really wanted to focus on becoming a more well-rounded leader with knowledge and understanding of the various ideas/policies that shape operations. The courses in foreign policy, international relations, politics of warfare, etc., have really filled in a lot of the holes and blind spots I’ve developed over the last 20 years.

Heather Williams, Stanton Fellow

Arms control is sometimes a hard sell. I was coming from an intellectual community that was inclined to see cooperation and arms control as a "net positive,” which it often is, but the SSP experience really made me question a lot of my underlying assumptions about arms control.

3) How will your time at SSP inform your work going forward?

Renanah Joyce, Statecraft Fellow

The year at SSP sharpened my thinking about my own research, particularly its connections to US grand strategy. This in turn has helped to shape the direction of my book project in ways that will have a significant impact on my research and scholarship moving forward.

Tyler Bowen, Stanton Fellow

My time at SSP has encouraged me to strive for more technical specificity when I talk about military power. If I say some country is increasing or decreasing in military power, what missions, exactly, are their militaries gaining or losing the ability to achieve?

Brian Novchich, Military Fellow

Becoming a valuable senior military leader requires a breadth of knowledge and perspective that will enable development of sound strategies and policies. I can’t think of a better education to that end than the one I’ve received here in SSP the last year.

4) What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your fellowship?

Trevor Prouty, Military Fellow

Snow removal in Boston is a serious proposition.

Heather Williams, Stanton Fellow

Modern Pastry is better than Mike's.

John Black, Military Fellow

I wish I would've learned to read and speak Chinese and Russian so I could review, interpret, and understand important primary source information in their native languages. I've found that reading English translations don't always provide the most accurate understanding of primary source documents. I also wish I would've had Erik Lin-Greenberg's class 'Causes and Prevention of War: Theory and Method' before I began my military career because it would have made be a better critical thinker. 

Brian Novchich, Military Fellow

I wish I would have known how quickly the year would pass, and how fleeting the opportunities would be during COVID.

5) What, if any, advice would you give to the next class of fellows?

Renanah Joyce, Statecraft Fellow

Reach out early and often to the SSP community. Even if your research is in an embryonic stage, the feedback and advice that you will get at SSP—and through the Statecraft fellowship—is unparalleled.

Heather Williams, Stanton Fellow

Work together on your presentations for the Stanton conference. Yeajin, Tyler, and I did a few practice run-throughs together and it was incredibly helpful not only to get the content really strong, but also to calm the nerves. The conference is super strict about the time limit, so the extra practice and feedback really helped.  

John Black, Military Fellow

I recommend each military fellow try to add as much value as they can for SSP. They can do this by taking more classes than previous fellows, learning from the professors and students, adding value by contributing to discussions (especially if they can link their military experiences to theoretical works), interacting with and providing insights and recommendations to SSP students for their assignments and projects, challenging theoretical works by introducing practitioner and policy making perspectives, and enjoying your time in New England. Lastly, make friends and build great relationships with the SSP staff and students, especially the students because they will face extremely challenging security dilemmas in the future.

Yeajin Yoon, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow

Make the most of the opportunities offered by SSP by attending Wednesday Seminars and various working groups. Get to know SSP grad students; they are awesome!


To learn more about the outgoing fellows, please check out these articles for the Military, Stanton and Statecraft Fellows.

To check out the seminars done by the Military Fellows during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP), please click here.

To catch up on this year’s Wednesday Seminar Series, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.