Current Position: M.A. Candidate in War Studies, King’s College London
Past: Institute for the Study of War, U.S. Department of State, Hudson Institute
Education: University of Chicago
Melissa Pavlik has held research positions at the Department of State, the Hudson Institute, and the Project for International Security Policy Workshop at the University of Chicago. An alumna of the 2015 War Studies Program, she is now an M.A. Candidate in War Studies at King’s College London and most recently worked as a Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, where she focused on global terrorism trends and U.S. grand strategy.
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT THE HERTOG FOUNDATION? WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO APPLY?
I’ve always been interested in conflict studies, but universities tend not to offer a class that is basic “War 101” or “How to Understand Conflict.” And they certainly don’t offer it with the type of people who have the on-the-ground or real-life experience in conflict that Drs. Kim and Fred Kagan and the various guest professors have. The War Studies Program seemed like an opportunity to actually jump-start learning in this field in a way that I couldn’t really do in college.
WHAT STICKS OUT IN YOUR MEMORY ABOUT YOUR EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE WITH HERTOG PROGRAMS?
There were a lot of moments in Hertog that were incredible. It was really a string of constant epiphanies so it’s hard to keep track of all the life-changing moments that occurred throughout the Program.
But one of the most crucial moments to my understanding was when we heard military leaders talk to us very explicitly about how war is fundamentally political and how civilian leadership is a critical part of how the military operates and how war operates. It made me realize that even though I wasn’t able to pursue a military career path, I could still very much have an impact on this area that I’m extremely passionate about and interested in. In fact, there is a very important role for people who aren’t in the military to play in analyzing and researching military affairs.
DO YOU THINK HERTOG PROGRAMS ARE BENEFICIAL FOR YOUNG PEOPLE INTERESTED IN SECURITY STUDIES?
Anybody who is interested in national security and has a Hertog background behind them has a leg up because of the way you’re taught to think about these issues. You’re not just reading from the books and learning doctrinal terms and definitions, you’re also learning to think about what you’ve read in a refined, respectful, and deep manner that I would’ve never been taught in university. I can’t think of a program better designed for people who are interested in going into these fields.
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR CAREER PATH. HOW DOES HERTOG FIT INTO YOUR PROFESSIONAL GOALS?
I did Hertog the summer before my senior year in college, and at the end of the Program, I was offered a job at the Institute for the Study of War. It’s essentially my dream job—studying counterterrorism and using the skills that I learned at Hertog to advance the organization that sponsored the Program. This is something that I would not have been able to do without Hertog, not only because I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet the Kagans and discuss these issues, but also because I wouldn’t have had the skillset or the knowledge necessary for the job.
OVERALL, WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF HERTOG PROGRAMS?
I think that they offer opportunities to learn things that you don’t learn in school. Even if you read texts related to what we learned in the War Studies Program, you would not be exposed to the breadth and depth of knowledge from the variety of professors that operate in the Hertog environment. It was a learning experience unlike any I’ve ever had.
You also wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet all the incredible students the Hertog network offers. Some of my closest friends and colleagues are Hertog alumni. It is a community that really maintains bonds past the Program, and that closeness comes out of more than just commonality of specific interests. It comes out of a shared passion for learning and the desire to continue focusing on these really important issues.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS? IN A SIMILAR JOB, OR EMBARKING ON SOMETHING DIFFERENT?
I certainly hope to still be working the in the national security space. I think I found exactly what I want to do in life, and this is it. I want to find where I can really contribute to the community. So if not in a government position, I certainly see myself in some kind of role to influence national security decisions.