Next Gen Nonproliferation
by Karen Theroux
Training the Best and Brightest to Stop the Spread of WMDs
From the detonation of the first atomic bomb in 1945, to the bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the Cold War buildup of enough nukes to destroy civilization several times over—efforts to control nuclear weapons that began well over sixty years ago and have persisted ever since. Today, rogue states and terrorists have replaced global superpowers as the greatest and most complex threat. Yet the heavy investment in nonproliferation of the Cold War era has dropped off, and experts are leaving the field after a lifetime’s work to curb nuclear arms. Which prompts us to wonder: Who will take over when the time comes to pass the torch?
What’s needed is a new cadre of highly trained specialists to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction. There are some extraordinary young people ready to assume that role, and many of the most promising, best prepared are students at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), part of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. A grantee of Carnegie Corporation with offices in Washington, D.C. and Vienna, Austria, the Center is the world’s largest nongovernmental organization dedicated to nonproliferation education. Through coursework, research and firsthand experience, CNS builds students’ understanding of why states pursue nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and what can be done to halt and reverse their spread. Graduates enter the workplace equipped with a practical action plan for reducing the dangers posed by WMDs, ready and able to make a difference. Small wonder the center’s alums occupy key positions throughout the field—in policy analysis, diplomacy, science, journalism and education—often shifting specialties as the years pass.
Several hundred students earned a Certificate in Nonproliferation Studies between from CNS between 1999, the year the Center was established, and 2010, when it launched the country’s first MA degree in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, which enrolls an average of 100 students per year. “Although the total number of students trained at CNS may pale in comparison with graduate programs in other areas, it has had an outsized role in seeding the nonproliferation field in the U.S. and beyond,” notes Stephen Del Rosso, Program Director for International Peace and Security. “CNS has become the principal pipeline for building expertise in the field, and linking research and policy—objectives that inform much of the work supported by the Corporation’s grantmaking in nuclear security.”
“Education and training are absolutely essential to the nonproliferation field, but generally neglected as a means to combat the spread of nuclear weapons,” says Patricia Moore Nicholas, the Carnegie Corporation project manager who oversees the CNS grants as part of the foundation’s strategy for promoting nuclear security. “We develop and nurture junior and midcareer nuclear specialists through grants that support networks, education and on-the-job training. It’s part of a focus on individual human capacity building,” she explains. “Our approach is to pick out talented people and give them the support they need.” Why CNS? “The director, Bill Potter, is building tomorrow’s global community of nonproliferation experts today. He pioneered nonproliferation education and is planting the seeds for 25 years from now.”
In its idyllic setting on the California coast, the Center offers the best possible environment for researching and analyzing nonproliferation issues, away from the pressures of New York and DC. Potter chose Monterey as the site for his small start-up in 1989. He began with a Soviet Nonproliferation Visiting Fellows Program for a handful of promising young Soviet journalists, scientists and scholars, few of whom knew much about the issue. “Until we got our center up and running no one was doing this work,” Potter says. “From the start we built our own curriculum.” Twenty-two years later, with graduates in every corner of the world, he’s justly proud of the “magnificent international community of young—and now also somewhat aging—nonproliferation specialists we have helped create.”
“Education is simply peace-building by another name,” former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. Experts throughout the field acknowledge its vital importance, Potter stresses, and have even agreed to make an education action item part of the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). So he finds it frustrating that many foundations and national governments still prefer quick fixes for complex problems and look for demonstrable indicators of success. “Unless you invest now you have no possibility of changing mindsets and creating an international community,” he stresses. “One is hard pressed to demonstrate the impact of the approach in one year or two or even four to five years.”
Potter’s knack for detecting talent is one key to the program’s achievements. He insists on recruiting only the “best and the brightest” for work on the world stage. “There are different ways to determine potential,” he explains. “Academic excellence matters, but there has to be an element of passion too. It’s very, very important. If you don’t have a passion for issues, you’ll burn out.” This zeal may account for the number of alums still working in nonproliferation years later. “The easy thing is training,” Potter says. “Sustaining is much more difficult.” Yet many do stick with the field—so many in fact they’re proud to have picked up the nickname “Monterey Mafia.”
“I can’t go to a meeting anywhere in the world without bumping into my students,” Potter says. He finds them in Vienna, Geneva, Tokyo, even Beijing, where the Center has trained over 40 junior diplomats from the China mission. Potter says he’s often asked how he’s able to sleep at night, working in what some consider a dismal field. “The students here have such idealism and energy and that provides a glimmer of hope,” he says. “It’s building this community of young people who have increasingly shared values about the work we’re doing and the need to find common ground. That’s what keeps me in the business.”
Peace-builders in Training
“Young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts,” President Barak Obama said, spotlighting the critical role the next generation must play. It was his first foreign policy speech, delivered in Prague, Czech Republic, promising to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” One year later the president returned to Prague to sign the New START Treaty, a strategic arms control agreement with Russia significantly reducing both countries’ nuclear arsenals, in a ceremony with President Medvedev.
That agreement resulted from the kind of high-stakes deal-making covered in CNS classrooms, where training hones both practical skills and political viewpoints. Despite varying nationalities, diverse life experience and distinctive goals, CNS students all seem in sync with the president’s assertion that “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.” Global citizens still in their twenties, they’re ready to advance the cause of peace, and come to Monterey for classes, fellowships and internships in policy, technology, foreign languages, trade, law, analysis, negotiation—virtually everything they need to master for a career in nonproliferation. Their life stories and ideas for the future give rise to renewed optimism about the peace-building community’s continuance, and its power to solve this problem in time.
Born in the Philippines, Maria Lovely Lumabi Umayam moved to Los Angeles at age 11, then to Portland where she attended Reed College. Her dream was to become a spoken word poet, until she encountered “a really great political science professor” and changed her major and her life plans. A college thesis on the arms race led to an internship at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. and eventually to a search for the right graduate program in international security—which is how she landed at Monterey and CNS. “International security seemed like you should need connections,” Umayam says, “and mine was definitely a cold search. But this place is accessible and they embrace talent even at a young age. As a 24-year-old that’s something I appreciate.”
Bristling with enthusiasm, Umayam describes her experiences at the Center. A few minutes into the conversation she casually mentions that she’ll be part of the Chilean delegation at the first Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee (prepcom), to be held in Vienna in April 2012 (a meeting that prepares for the NPT Review Conference scheduled in 2015). How did she manage that? “I signed up for Dr. Potter’s nonproliferation arms control treaty simulation,” she explains, “and ended up as chair. He connected me with the ambassador of Chile who needs help during prepcom. It just happened.”
Umayam speaks for all CNS students in describing Potter’s arms control simulation class as the turning point in her educational experience. In this one-semester course, students role-play representatives of a country (not their own) at mock bilateral or multilateral treaty negotiations. Potter says he can only describe what happens during the simulations as alchemy. “I really don’t know what takes over the students,” he says. “They develop empathy—the capacity to see with the eyes of others. We also include junior diplomats from various countries in the mix; they’re fairly experienced but you can’t tell the pros from the students.” Potter thinks the simulation exercise, a technique he developed early on as a teaching assistant, appeals to students because it’s not just an academic exercise but an opportunity to interact with real policymakers.
“The best thing about the simulations is that they are as real as possible,” Umayam says. They give students an opportunity to try out various approaches—pushing, thinking, challenging, questioning. Participants must develop a willingness to listen to others as well as a willingness to challenge, she says. “Being approachable is the key to negotiations,” Umayam has learned. “Yet this doesn’t happen at the policy table, but during smaller gatherings, where people connect. When I decided to chair, I did not know how an ambassador is supposed to be, but after a while you get into the tone of it.
“The breakdown is 50/50 knowledge and diplomacy,” she says, “which to me is the art of knowing when not to speak. Another thing I have learned at CNS is that you can be a fantastic politician, but if you don’t know the science you will get your policy wrong. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist or engineer, but you need to know the basics. You need to know about production, weaponization, how a nuke program may be developed. If you want to understand policy you have to get molecular.”
Another interest of Umayam’s is the way women in international security interact, which she notes they do differently than men. “Now in nonproliferation we have Rose Gottemoeller (acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security) and a number of female figures. It’s a testament to the rise of women,” she says. “As an aspiring policy practitioner, I’d like to see what I can do as a woman and a woman of color. Even if there are women in the field, there are few U.S. women of color representing our policy. These are the different levels it challenges me to think about. It’s very cool.”
Karim Kamel is a 27-year-old research associate at CNS from Cairo, Egypt. He attended the American University in Cairo, then received his B.A. from San Jose State with a major in political science and a minor in biology. His manner is breezy, his expression intense. “Nonproliferation lies in the intersection between science and policy,” Kamel says, “and that’s exactly what I want to do. Coming from the Middle East, I’m trying to accomplish something that would enhance security and make it more sustainable. Verification takes a lot of understanding of science, but you also have to address the dogma of nuclear deterrence and the role nuclear weapons play in the security perception in the region.”
“You can be a fantastic politician, but if you don’t know the science you will get your policy wrong. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist or engineer, but you need to know the basics…. If you want to understand policy you have to get molecular.”
Kamel’s concern with nukes began in childhood. “I was six years old, watching a news show called This Day in History. They were talking about the atomic doomsday clock, and ‘this day’ was the day when it had come closest to midnight. I really thought the doomsday clock would come to an end and I wanted to do something to contribute to the clock not reaching midnight. Growing up, I always had the idea that the region I lived in was very unique. I saw it as a hotspot. The year that I sensed the most volatility was during the 2000 Palestinian uprising. But then with Mohamed El Baradei winning the Nobel Peace Prize during my first year as an undergrad in the U.S., I also saw how he contributed to international peace and it was an inspiration.
“At Monterey you cannot stereotype anyone,” Kamel says, “and it makes you appreciate everyone.” Students benefit from the school’s relationships all over the world. An alum who had interned at a Jordan think tank made it possible for Kamel, who had never been anywhere in the Middle East outside Egypt, to spend a summer working in Jordan. Then, through Monterey Institute’s International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) program, he landed an internship in Vienna with the Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). “Vienna is such a globalized place,” he says, “and I got to meet some of the international icons of disarmament, even Ambassador Tibor Tóth, CTBTO’s executive secretary.”
Returning to California for his final semester, Kamel participated in a monitoring class run by Dr. Patricia Lewis, deputy director and scientist-in-residence at the Center, who served for 10 years as the director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva, Switzerland. “We went over the final 2010 NPT document, word by word like lawyers. How thorough is it? What does it mean? Can we hold countries accountable? The problem with the documents is that they aren’t written coherently,” Kamel contends. “For instance, noncompliance is not specifically defined. So these loose concepts may bring some benefits, but also many problems. My assignment was to examine the Middle East section. I tried to design a tool by which we can measure progress there and maybe affect things for the better.
“I came to the U.S. alone and my whole family is still in Egypt,” Kamel says. “Ultimately I’ll be trying to start an NGO in Egypt for nuclear disarmament, once I can accumulate the necessary expertise to launch such an ambitious project. I want to tackle the concept of nuclear deterrence; I think it’s security through coercion. I see danger at every level with the idea that this is something sustainable. Plus, it’s a waste of resources to maintain nuclear weapons. If we could actually use those resources, we could solve the millennium goals by 2015. I’m very passionate about this.”
Twenty-five-year-old Sayaka Shingu, a native of Hiroshima, Japan, says she can’t help being familiar with nuclear-bomb-related issues. “For example, during elementary school days, we were told to write a short essay about the bomb. My mother took me to a park to see a ‘bomb tree.’ We read about the tree together and then I wrote the essay. Our everyday life was always related to these issues.” Shingu studied politics and nuclear disarmament at the University of Tokyo, then came to the United States on a Japanese government scholarship, and has just completed her first semester at the Monterey Institute.
Shingu speaks in a soft voice and chooses her words with care. “To be honest, I was not quite so interested in this issue until 2001, when images of 9/11 were being shown on CNN,” she says. At that time I was quite shocked sitting in front of the TV screen at home in Hiroshima. I witnessed the scene but could not do anything to help. So that was when I started thinking about what I might do for the world or society.” Shingu feels her early life experience played a role in her intense reaction to events at the World Trade Center. “Because of my father’s job in research, I lived in Seattle and Portland as a young child,” she explains. “I have sweet memories of America. I was in a local kindergarten. I loved Walt Disney animation. I loved eating, so I remember the colorful snacks, the way children do. Memories of the U.S. are a very significant part of my story.
“These memories are important because when I came back to Japan, I realized that in some very basic ways, I was different from other children. I was not able to speak Japanese so fluently and my pronunciation was sometimes wrong. I hadn’t studied writing. At times this led to bullying. People in Japan are very conscious of difference and there were repercussions to my having lived in the U.S. It doesn’t have a negative impact now. I am Japanese but I have only positive feelings about this country.”
It was as a teen that Shingu’s unique ties to the United States began to influence her vision for the future. “I considered what I could do for bilateral relations between the United States and Japan.” She decided that the first thing she could do would be to learn about her own hometown and how life there was affected by being the first city in the world to undergo a nuclear attack. Then she started to take part in nongovernmental organizations and civil society study groups that promote peace and educate the public about the dangers of nuclear weapons. “Gradually I noticed that learning about my history coming from a bombed city is quite important,” she says, “But I wondered, how can we overcome this tragedy and prevent it from ever happening again?”
Shingu decided to enroll in Tokyo University to gain another perspective. “Mine is the third generation of survivors. Both sets of my grandparents were affected. Although they were victims, fortunately they did not suffer that much, although one aunt did pass away due to the bomb. During my undergraduate years, having experienced daily life in one of the bombed cities was not a critical part of my identity. But on August 6th, every TV station and newspaper’s content is very different from any other day. Then, people who come from a bombed city realize we have a very particular worldview.
“I’m still trying to distinguish between the Hiroshima, Japan and the United States perspective. The most important way I can learn is to talk face-to-face with American citizens. Because I’m now a diplomacy trainee, my next step is the ministry of foreign affairs. After these two years of study I would like to improve communication between our two countries, especially in nonproliferation. That will be my task, to contribute to understanding.”
Globetrotters with a Purpose
While some CNS students can trace their interest in the nonproliferation field to an early life experience or dramatic turning point, for others the notion grows over time—an aspect of coming of age while seeing the world. One such is Californian Steven Anderle. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in political science, Anderle wasn’t ready for grad school. Instead he went to China and taught English for two years, then spent a third year working as a law proofreader. “My job was making sure documents sounded like a real person wrote them. I spent day after day reading law at the computer. After that I was ready to come back.”
When Anderle applied to Monterey Institute of International Studies, it wasn’t with the idea of studying nonproliferation. “It was the international aspect of the school that appealed to me,” he says. “MIIS is such an international campus. People who come from or have lived in another country have a different kind of openness. The empathy for other people’s points of view is very strong here.” Anderle enrolled as a conflict resolution student, then was recruited for a job at CNS. “Dr. Potter scans applications of incoming students and when he sees potential, tries to get them interested in nonproliferation. He offered me a research job, and I took it. It was the right move,” he says. “Nonproliferation is a small community but there are a lot of opportunities. So few places are teaching students to focus on this subject so graduates from here have an advantage in the job market.”
Anderle has honed his nonproliferation skills working on a number of relevant research projects as well as updating content on the Nuclear Threat Initiative Web site (NTI.org), an assignment he considers “very important.” An internship at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories nuclear weapons facility gave Anderle a chance to work on a Department of Energy next-generation safeguards initiative. As part of the program to train young professionals in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, he had attended a one-week intensive course on policy for students from around the world. He then worked with a China expert from the intelligence division and he is now writing an honors thesis on the effect of Chinese nuclear activities. “China has actually stopped producing fissile material for its weapons,” he explains, “but for nuclear power needs they are going through a huge buildup. I’m exploring the implications of such a rapid industry expansion.”
Second-year CNS student Karen Hogue comes from San Antonio, Texas. She spent her undergraduate years at Texas A&M, one of very few women majoring in nuclear engineering. “I wanted all sorts of awesome experiences,” she says. But her first college summer job had Hogue working at a nuclear power plant in South Carolina, and the next one doing nuclear physics research—sitting behind a computer working on international experiments “where protons and quarks are ripped apart.” It wasn’t until her third year that she had her most memorable experience—two months teaching nuclear chemistry and physics, at a school in India on the border of Nepal. “It was a volunteer program where if you found your own experience the university would support it,” she says. “There were so many students, so much to do. It was emotionally and physically draining.”
After graduation Hogue spent four years in the navy teaching at the Navy Nuclear Power School in Charleston, South Carolina. “The navy offers huge leadership opportunities at an early age,” she says. “Nothing else compares.” Hogue taught 500 student trainees and ran a division of physics. “It was a wonderful four years,” she says. “But the gender breakdown among students was about 15 percent women, and about 10 percent of enlisted personnel. Undergrad engineering was even worse! Now, in my nonproliferation classes it’s almost 50/50—a better ratio. Being here is a real change.”
Even early in her college years Hogue envisioned a career that would “involve the human factor. I’m an engineer who likes talking to people,” she says, “which might be unusual. I wanted to utilize my training doing something that directly affected people. CNS is one of only a handful of programs that try to blend the tech side with the policy side,” Hogue explains. “A couple of people I worked with said the ‘Monterey Mafia’ were taking over the policy world and that finalized my decision to come to California.”
During her second semester, Hogue took Potter’s simulation class and agrees with fellow students that it’s a uniquely valuable experience. “Doing treaty negotiations in that setting teaches many more aspects of nonproliferation than a lecture class can. Everyone gets into the mindset of their own country,” she says. She represented Mexico, and says, “I felt like I was really the country…. I started out with a tech background and a bit of policy experience. From the simulation training I learned enough about the policy debates to participate in a ‘Nuclear Scholars Initiative’ project in a nuclear think tank where there were 21 participants along with high-level speakers. That convinced me: this is definitely the right place for me to be.”
At age 23 Jessica Bufford is living her dream with a six-month internship in the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, WMD branch. “I was in Model UN in high school and we covered lots of disarmament issues,” Bufford says. “Even back then I started building up knowledge and vocabulary. But now, to actually work with the UN is a dream come true. I’m doing for real what I pretended for years.” Her assignments include analyzing WMD developments and trends, conducting research and analysis, drafting briefing papers, and attending meetings in advance of the 2012 NPT Preparatory Committee.
“It’s all the nuts and bolts,” Bufford says. “Vocabulary is half the field, and not common vernacular. Nonproliferation can be like navigating a minefield. My coursework prepared me for this, and I’ve used it already.”
Looking ahead to a future of international communication, Bufford praises the language component at Monterey as well as the interdisciplinary aspect. “There are many opportunities to talk to people from other backgrounds,” she says, “and to get new ideas and make connections.” Over three semesters she has had only three classes with American professors. “The rest have all been experts from Argentina, India, Russia, Greece—all over the world,” she says. The UN assignment is Bufford’s second internship since starting at CNS in January 2011; the first was at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory helping to develop a theoretical HEU (highly enriched uranium) down-blending verification regime between India and Pakistan.
Bufford describes herself as a big-picture person, who won’t be content to “help only one village.” With the UN, Bufford’s negotiation skills could potentially bring stability to a much larger area, she believes. While enrolled at Austin College in northeast Texas she traveled to Ukraine, Estonia, Russia, Bolivia and Peru, and spent a term at the Sorbonne, in Paris, so her global perspective is understandable. At Monterey Bufford discovered negotiation is something she enjoys, and could be good at. She started out as a conflict resolution student, then participated in the START simulation. “I really went for it,” she says. “And I started to realize I had skills in diplomacy, and passion. I was interacting with ambassadors and I wanted to know, ‘How do I become you?’ I realized this is what I’m meant to do. “
Nashville native and China specialist Jonathan Ray is in his second semester at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. A fascination with Asia is something he “fell backwards into,” as Ray puts it. At first, after 9/11 he thought he should learn Arabic. “But after taking class with a really good professor, it dawned on me that we need to work on trade issues with China. For that I needed two things: to improve my Chinese and to specialize in nuclear nonproliferation.” Ray says when he tells people about being at CNS he stresses that “what drew me here wasn’t just Monterey. It could have been anywhere and I would have applied.”
After graduation from Cornell, Ray took a two-year language fellowship, spending the first year at Brigham Young University. “It was intimidating because three out of four students had already served missions in Taiwan,” he says. But the real highlight was being in China. He studied crisis management in Nanjing, where “it was all in Chinese, talking with the professors and other students,” then volunteered in the arms control program in the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University. “Fukushima happened when I was in China,” Ray recalls, which gave rise to interesting discussions on Japan’s versus China’s approach to nuclear power.
Studying overseas is a blessing that comes with its own challenges, he says. “Culturally, one of the most fundamental concepts is the importance of face. I had heard about it ad nauseum but never really appreciated it. For instance, the real discussions happen at a lower level because people at the upper level would never speak ill of each other. Something as subtle as tone of voice would be quite different depending on whether you’re talking to the director or to an assistant who had to get things done,” Ray explains. “Also in that line, Track II diplomacy that mixes different kinds of people together is really where things get done. You can get someone to say something off the record that they wouldn’t say otherwise. China has some very different ideas than the U.S. where arms are concerned,” Ray adds. “Their policy emphasizes very long term planning. That sometimes clashes with the U.S. because we want quick action.
“I love studying China and nonproliferation both; as soon as I feel I understand one thing, two more questions pop up. My main interest is export control issues, and I’ve taken a course that covered money laundering and international law, and a workshop on international trade and shipping, which looked at the fundamentals of Arms Control and security in East Asia.” Ray says his main focus is on the nuclear dual-use issue—civilian and military. “One example might be ‘spark gaps’ that are used in a medical device to get rid of kidney stones, but can also be used to ignite a nuclear weapon. When you sell those you have to be aware of who is buying.”
Alums in the Trenches
Graduates of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies maintain their advantage well after their careers are underway. A good example is Charles Mahaffey, who came to the Monterey Institute after working six years as a teacher near Nagasaki, Japan. “I enrolled just a year after 9/11,” Mahaffey explains. “I was worried about nuclear weapons, and wanted to do something to assure that humanity would never see them used again.” Now Mahaffey is a senior foreign affairs officer with the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation. He’s assigned to the Office of Regional Affairs, which he explained is divided into different regions of the world. “Ours covers a total of 10 countries east of India. I started here six years ago, immediately after graduating from Monterey, and have just reached country number eight. It’s only a matter of time until I see all 10, including North Korea.”
A native of Tucson, Mahaffey says ending up in the teaching program in Japan was “a random chance.” Like many CNS students, he has an interesting story to tell. During World War II, his grandparents were involved with the Manhattan Project, his grandmother as secretary to the director, Leslie Grove, and his grandfather as a radio operator on B29s flying daily missions over Japan from the same base as the Enola Gay. When Mahaffey married a woman from Nagasaki, both sets of grandparents attended their wedding. “Her family had been on the ground while mine was in the air,” he says. “When they met at the wedding, my grandfather said, ‘I know exactly where that was…’”
Mahaffey’s time at Monterey included editing “FirstWatch International,” a weekly summary of everything being written about WMD issues. He also did a fellowship at CNS headquarters in Washington, D.C. and another at the UN. But what he valued most was the international composition of the school itself, which he termed amazing. “Only half the enrollment is American. In nonproliferation and other policy programs, a third of the course work had to be done in a foreign language, so you really had to come in with advanced knowledge. My favorite class was the nonproliferation review conducted all in Japanese.”
Years later, “I’m still very heavily involved with CNS,” Mahaffey adds. “They continue to partner on a lot of the work we do in East Asia. One good example is when CNS brings foreign diplomats in to study issues and then takes them to Washington, D.C. at the end of the program. They’re not always very senior officials, but they’re people we haven’t been exposed to and they answer questions about how they do their jobs, which benefits both sides. There have been times when the only chance we have to talk to China has been through these things that Monterey has set up. You can see the impact on someone who has been through the program. That cultural sensitivity really, really helps.”
Anya Erokhina is a recent graduate of the Monterey Institute with a degree in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. Her experiences as a grad student at the Center, plus internships at the Naval Post Graduate School, Lawrence Livermore National Labs and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs led directly to her current spot as a Nunn–Lugar Fellow at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in Washington, D.C.—where the mission is safeguarding the United States and its allies from weapons of mass destruction. “You have to lock up your phone when you come to the office,” Erokhina says to illustrate the sensitive nature of her work.
Erokhina was born in Moscow, grew up in California and Idaho and speaks Russian, Spanish and Arabic. “It’s a big plus to have more than one language,” she says. “Russian is especially important in nonproliferation where you want to be speaking with someone on their own terms. Two things I loved about Monterey and CNS are that the language component is forced on you and that you’d better work your butt off,” she laughs. The START simulation is a case in point. “It was held at the same time the negotiation was really going on. We had access to colleagues with years of experience in the field, even speaking to Rose Gottemoeller on Skype and getting the ins and outs of international negotiation. It was the best experience ever, being thrown into the fire.”
Transitioning into the work world was “surprisingly easy,” Erokhina says. “Because we focus less on theory and more on practical applications and hot topics of the day, it prepared me to enter an office… to speak the language, understand the variables. On some level there’s so much more I’m learning and I’m gaining a greater appreciation that I didn’t have as a student. But because of the foundation from Monterey, I’ve never felt at a loss.”
Vienna-based Jenni Rissanen is a nonproliferation strategy analyst for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The agency is run by a team of 2,300 multidisciplinary professional and support staff from more than 100 countries. They come from scientific, technical, managerial and professional disciplines, and are based mainly at the Vienna headquarters. “My particular position is a little unusual,” she says, “in the sense that most of the staff are techs. My job is in the division of concepts and planning—the think tank of the department—and I work mostly on strategic planning. It can be very abstract. But what we do here has a tremendous impact on what’s done in the field.”
Rissanen is from Finland, and went to college in the United States. She’s always been oriented to international studies, so choosing Monterey Institute was a natural, she says. “The program there appealed to me because it was so uniquely focused on WMDs. Like many people in the field, I come from a military family; my father was a UN Peacekeeper. I lived in Syria and Israel as a young child and went to a UN school. I recall writing an essay at age 12 or so about nuclear weapons. Growing up during the Cold War in a country right next to the Soviet Union, I was scared by some of the threat perceptions at that time.”
Rissanen graduated from Monterey Institute in 1999 and has been in Vienna since 2007. In between she worked for the Finnish mission in Geneva and for an NGO, and was doing consulting work when she got the IAEA offer. Working for different stakeholders and intergovernmental bodies has been good experience, she says, because “they all have their own role in this business and you can understand because you have been there. I agree 100 percent that one of the advantages of the CNS program is that it is very practically oriented. Employers say it is always easy to hire people from Monterey because you don’t have to reorient them from an academic to a practical approach.” Rissanen says another advantage is that they are prepared for a multicultural environment. “It’s the principle of geographical representation in the UN system that there should be people from every country to make a truly international workforce. Once you come and work in such an agency you surrender your passport. You are now an international civil servant and your mission is to serve the international public good.”
One of the ongoing challenges is that at the agency there are only 23 percent women in the professional category. “We are definitely underrepresented, she says. The higher up you go the worse it gets.” Another challenge is that you must take a very long perspective, she says, because you don’t see immediate results. Or you might not see any results at all. “It’s when they go wrong that we notice things are happening. But we know when there’s a low point, things will go up again. You have to be a little optimistic. It takes patience to be in this field, and determination.”
Sean Dunlop is a program analyst for the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). He started there on a fellowship in 2010 and got a full-time contract in 2011. “As an action officer, I get requests for information, talking points, memos, etc., from NNSA, along with interagency requests,” Dunlop explains. “I have to make sure all answers are timely and correct. I also write regular monthly reports.”
It’s not the career Dunlop might have envisioned for himself as a college student at Case Western, where he majored in music with plans of becoming a teacher. But when his certification exam was graded incorrectly, preventing him from getting a teaching job after graduation, he signed up for the Peace Corps and spent two years working with Mayan communities in Belize. “It’s hard to leave the Peace Corps and come back to work in a typical office. It sparks a passion to make the world a better place. You get to know people from other countries and develop ‘big picture’ aspirations,” Dunlop says.
Those aspirations led him to Monterey Institute. With its academic program, two internships, and a graduate assistant position at the Center, he was highly prepared to enter the field. “There’s absolutely a direct line from Monterey to the job,” Dunlop says. “It’s regarded as a pipeline for graduates to go straight to work in nonproliferation. It’s the opposite of the ivory tower.
“Academic excellence matters, but there has to be an element of passion too. It’s very, very important. If you don’t have a passion for issues, you’ll burn out.”
“One cool thing is the way the Center could draw smart, talented people from all over, then when we would meet them they were always very approachable,” Dunlop says. “During the simulation class Ambassador Linton Brooks [former head of NNSA] spent a whole day with us. What a great experience—at NNSA he’s a legend and a hero. One class in particular—the “Nuclear Renaissance” class—was right at the intersection of policy, technology and international relations. Taking this course helped me get a summer internship sponsored by the Department of Energy at Lawrence Livermore National Lab that dealt with safeguard issues. Our coursework focused on the resurgence of interest in Asia right now to build nuclear reactors for power: Will that have implications for nonproliferation?”
As for long-range plans, Dunlop’s hoping his position with the Department of Energy could be a springboard for an extended career in public service. “I would like to work for the government for about 10 years, learn more about the big picture, and then try for a position in an international organization,” he says. “All with the goal of someday living in a nuclear weapons free world.”
Expanding the Mission
Although graduate education is the CNS focus, Bill Potter sees no reason why high school students can’t get involved. “Fifteen years ago I was invited to speak about the spread of weapons of mass destruction at a local civic group where several high school seniors were in the audience,” he recounts. “When the talk was finished, the young people approached the podium and said, ‘We’re about to graduate; how come we haven’t been told any of this?’ In response in 1997 we developed the ‘Critical Issues Forum,’ the first program to assist in teaching high school students about nonproliferation.”
“There’s no other organization that deals with nonproliferation for this age students,” says Masako Toki, CNS education project manager, a Monterey graduate originally from Kobe, Japan. “We work with teachers, which is very important, and design the curriculum so students systematically develop critical thinking. We have participants from American high schools and Russian schools in all ten formerly closed cities where their families were involved in nuclear development. It’s so important for them to learn all about nonproliferation, security and safety. We’re starting to involve Chinese high schools and hope to have students from the Middle East. We’re also reaching out to schools in Japan. A passion for nonproliferation is common among Japanese children; it’s a very personal issue for everyone there.”
Students collaborate on investigating the scientific, economic, political and ethical aspects of nonproliferation and security issues so they can develop informed opinions on such complex topics as WMDs, terrorism and other crucial international issues of the time. A new topic is chosen each academic year. As this is being written, plans are underway for the Spring 2012 Student Conference in Vienna, Austria, in conjunction with the 2012 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee. The conference will begin with a session led by Yukia Amano, a former visiting scholar at Monterey who is Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It makes sense that the new Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, operated by CNS (with Carnegie Corporation support), is setting up shop close to one of the most important intergovernmental organizations dedicated to nuclear security and nonproliferation. Opened in 2011 with support from the Austrian government, this new center is dedicated to furthering international peace and security by providing independent expertise to organizations, professionals and the public—including young people. Through conferences, training programs and ongoing research, it will build a network of institutions to foster dialogue and cooperation.
“The Vienna Center can serve the IAEA in important ways,” says Carl Robichaud, a program officer in Carnegie Corporation’s International Peace and Security Program. “The IAEA plays a critical role but doesn’t have the necessary level of support.” Institutions in New York, Washington, DC, or Geneva benefit from the presence of an independent analytical sector in those cities, but the lack of such organizations in Vienna means the IAEA is comparatively underserved. The Vienna Center should increase the international dialog there while further advancing the Monterey Institute’s global presence and outreach. “And it’s a natural fit for Monterey because a significant number of their graduates already go to work at the IAEA or the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization, which is also in Vienna,” Robichaud points out. International diplomats also stand to benefit from the new center, which can provide them with critical training on nuclear issues. “Diplomats in Vienna have a broad portfolio. Many of the people responsible for making important decisions in this area lack a strong background in nuclear issues,” he says. “Improved understanding of these issues can help countries to move beyond block politics and toward shared solutions.” ■
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