#ElliottProud: Phoenix Mourning-Star

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Dr. Phoenix Mourning-Star received a Master’s in International Affairs from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2015 specializing in Science and Technology Policy. He is a scientist for the Marine Corps’ Operational Test Activity, whose primary work is in the development of cyber methodologies for testing the cyber resilience of systems in the DoD acquisitions pipeline that does or can connect to information systems. He and a few students in his ESIA class observed the challenge of careers and job searching and so embarked on starting their own consulting company, Results International Research & Consulting – which Phoenix still oversees. One of his favorite projects that the company still operates is a college/university student professional development and networking training program because it keeps him in touch with the challenges and aspirations of current students who are truly the future of our innovative society.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am currently working as a scientist for the Marine Corps’ Operational Test Activity. My primary work is in the development of methodologies for testing the cyber resilience of systems in the DoD acquisitions pipeline that does or can connect to information systems. This work is intended to ensure the warfighter on the battlefield has systems at their disposal that are robust to unauthorized infiltration by adversaries as well as insider threats – recently the unit he co-leads was the first to construct and lead a quantitative cyber tabletop exercise on a DoD system in the acquisitions pipeline!

What was your experience with the job search post-graduation? Can you provide any wisdom for students who will start their job search?

My job search was unique as I came to the Elliott School’s ISTP MA program while completing my Ph.D. dissertation in Ecology with Chemical/Biological Engineering at another institution. I found that searching for jobs in DC was much more reliant on networking and ‘hearing about’ opportunities than it was sitting at a computer submitting endless resumes and applications into the void.

In my opinion, the competition is so fierce in this area – Arlington and Alexandra having recently been voted in the top 10 smartest U.S. cities – that applicants really need to be in the right place at the right time (and in the right people’s sphere).

 What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

It isn’t all about kicking down doors and blowing up the wrong targets as seen on the news. I came from a completely humanitarian and environmental sciences background (epidemiology, vaccine testing, renewable energy, human rights law), so working in the DoD and especially at the service level is extremely different from any other office, lab or academic setting. Culture shock is an understatement. That said, being on the front lines of supporting national security by testing the tools our warfighters use is also about making sure the intended targets are hit, rather than the creating collateral damage is a huge part of what I bring to the table and take home.

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

A Phoenix – obviously

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu

#WeAreElliott: Aimee Barreto

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Aimee Barreto is a first-year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in International Science & Technology Policy at the Elliott School’s Space Policy Institute. Aimee has supported NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, MD since 2004 and most recently, managed the Code 541 Materials Engineering Branch as a Group/Task Manager. Aimee holds a Master of Science in Government Contracts from The George Washington University, Master of Business Administration from Syracuse University and Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from Syracuse University.

When did you realize you wanted an international career and what inspired you to select your program/concentration at the Elliott School?

My personal path towards the Elliott School comes after a 22-year career in business management working in various industries from aerospace to DOD.  Although I have specialized in business, accounting, and government procurement law, I was inspired to enroll at the Elliott School because of its affiliation with the Space Policy Institute.  SPI offers a variety of courses in Space Policy, Space Law, Economics of Space, Space and National Security and Human Aerospace Health.  This program offers the necessary foundation to have a well-established career at NASA, NOAA, DOD or the Commercial Space Industry.

What has been your most rewarding academic experience (i.e., in-class, with an institute/office, at an Elliott sponsored on/off-campus event) at the Elliott School?

The most rewarding academic experience has been the insight into the science and technology field provided by Elliott School professors.  There have been many events featuring national and international industry and government leaders from the Space sector.  The Elliott School provides a great networking platform.  For instance, SPI students were invited to attend Vice President Mike Pence’s first meeting for the National Space Council.  There was also an opportunity to visit the National Space Council’s facilities with Dr. Scott Pace at the Old Executive Building on the White House Grounds.  These are all rare opportunities for most people and quite unique to GW, the Elliott School and SPI.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are on the fence about applying to a graduate program at the Elliott school?

As a proud graduate of Syracuse University and The George Washington University, I can honestly say that I have been fortunate to have a top-notch education.   I recently completed graduate studies at GW’s Law School/School of Business and now attend the Elliott School of International Affairs.  I would describe GW as a “class act” and the Elliott School/SPI as a “world class” school.  Its geographical location in the heart of Washington, D.C. provides an incredible advantage with access to government and industry.

Where have you not yet traveled to that you would like to visit and why?

The most interesting place we could travel as humans would be space – the moon and deep space frontier.  Being a part of NASA for so many years and now the Elliott School’s Space Policy Institute, I can be at the forefront of the discussion.  What seems unimaginable in the distant past, now appears to be a future reality.

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Takuya Wakimoto

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Takuya Wakimoto is a first-year graduate student in the M.A. International Science & Technology Policy program at the George Washington University. He currently interns at the Hudson Institute in the Center for Political-Military Analysis as a non-resident researcher, participating in the United Nations Environment Programme’s preparation of the GEO-6 for Youth, and Asia-Pacific publication as a Leading Author on a voluntary basis. His undergraduate degree, awarded by Kwansei Gakuin University (Japan), was in Policy Studies where he gained exposure to international affairs, politics, economics, and technology. He then worked in the aero-engine division at IHI Corporation to learn how defense policies affect the manufacturer. After four years of professional experience, he is now pursuing his studies in commercial and security space policy.

When did you realize you wanted an international career and what inspired you to select your program or concentration at the Elliott School?

Two events triggered me to pursue a career in international relations. First, my undergraduate studies at Kwansei Gakuin University (Japan) provided me opportunities and exposure to diverse students and communities. In particular, the university gave me a chance to meet and talk with current workers at the United Nations headquarter. This experience first inspired me to pursue a career in international relations. Second, North Korea’s missile test in April 2012 opened up my interest in national security and missile defense. Summing up these two intriguing events, my only option was to study Space Policy at the best-known school, the Elliott School.

What resources (online or offline) have proven to be the most valuable in helping you reach your career success?

What I feel so far is that the most valuable strategy to developing a career is knowing people and building your network. The Elliott School, including the Space Policy Institute, holds a variety of events, invites alumni and professionals and offers assistance with internship and job opportunities through a profound support network. As proof of this support, I was able to apply for and get an internship from a think-tank and am expecting to get another for the upcoming summer. This accessibility of network-building is an intangible asset of the Elliott School.

What piece of advice/wisdom would you have given yourself when you started your program now that you’ve completed your first year?

Read in advance. Don’t let a party disturb your time to read. Write along when you read. My first semester was my first study experience in the United States. I was pretty much aware of my abilities; thus, I devoted more effort to prepare for classes. That still was not enough. I fell behind several days due to pushing away my daily duties by partying. I was unprepared. Therefore, if I could convey my message, I will urge myself now and others to take more time and concentrate on studying, don’t even try to think about procrastinating.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

Without hesitating to confess, without any offense to the pineapple pizza lovers, I just cannot understand mixing a “dessert” and a “non-sweet meal.” Categories that I have in my mind are:

1) non-sweet meal (e.g., meat, vegetable, pizza, tacos, etc) that is typically eaten to satisfy your daily diet,
2) sweets (e.g., cakes, candies, etc), and
3) fruits.

Each category is deterministic, unique or discrete. It cannot be incorporated into another category because it just degrades the taste! (Note: all of these expressions and ideas solely reflect my personal view).

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Jake Cooper

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Jake Cooper is current first-year International Science and Technology Policy student concentrating in Space Policy. He studied Political Science at Humboldt State University in Northern California. Think redwood forests and pristine coastline. During his time at Humboldt, he interned for a California State Senator where he assisted with constituency affairs. Currently, he is starting an internship at a small service-based private space company where he will assist the CEO in various projects.

When did you realize you wanted an international career and what inspired you to select your program or concentration at the Elliott School?

I first began to desire an international career during my undergraduate program while studying political science. I was getting interested in space and diplomacy during my final semester capstone course and found a lot of private and public entities in the space sector all involve international components on some level, and found the idea of working in the space sector in an international mode very exciting. I had written a few papers on those topics, and as space is a continually evolving and up and coming power sector, I knew that applying to the Elliott School’s International Science and Technology (ISTP) program was the right choice.

What resources (online or offline) have proven to be the most valuable in helping you reach your career success?

Honestly, networking with your peers and professors is a powerful resource here at Elliott. I am not a networking guru and never had the opportunity to learn how to network before becoming a graduate student here. Meeting your classmates and professors and building relationships with them can be an incredibly powerful method of learning how to network and can lead to the opening up of countless doors in your preferred career field. I was having trouble finding the right internship at first, but with one of the many email mailing lists I had subscribed to that are maintained by some of our ISTP students, I managed to find the perfect internship. I applied for it, studied for the interview, did great, and was offered the position. So networking does have its benefits, even if it does take a bit of time to learn.

What piece of advice/wisdom would you have given yourself when you started your program now that you’ve completed your first year?

When given the opportunity to attend events put on by your program, GW, or the Elliott School, go to them. Participate, and meet your fellow peers and other professors, especially those you anticipate spending a great deal of time with over the next two or more years. You’ll build great relationships and like I mentioned above, possible open doors to great opportunities.

If you could give one gift to the world, what would it be and why?

If I could give 1 gift to the world, without being cliche, (as much as I, and many, want world peace, ending world hunger/poverty, etc. is a much larger task than one person can handle), I would, instead, hope to make some kind of major contribution to the world in the space sector. Perhaps by leading the charge or even being a small cog in the machine that eventually leads people further out to the Moon, Mars and our solar system through robotics or human involvement.

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

Incoming Student Highlight: Chris Beauregard

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Since graduating from The University of South Carolina in May of 2013, I’ve worked in business development in the Washington DC office of ThyssenKrupp, a German engineering firm focusing specifically on elevator technology. At GW I will be studying space policy within the ISTP program to begin my career in commercial spaceflight operations, business development and strategy. Much of my spare time is dedicated to building a company that I started to provide AED equipment to buildings in the metropolitan area.
My summer will be spent growing my customer base, preparing for classes and traveling, including Rio for the Olympics.