Daniel Nichola - learning in a policy-relevant context

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My name is Daniel Nichola and I completed my Master of Strategic Studies.

I enrolled in the Master of Strategic Studies program at ANU’s Strategic & Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) because I wanted to learn from Australia’s best lecturers about the subject matter that I wanted to work on professionally. My decision was strongly influenced by my honour’s thesis supervisor from Monash University, Dr Andy Butfoy, who completed his PhD at SDSC under Des Ball in the late 1980s. His advice: “if you want to work on Australian strategic policy, go study at SDSC.”

I enjoyed all of the courses that I undertook, but I found the courses that focused on Australia’s interests and Australian policy choices to be the most engaging. For me, learning in a policy-relevant context was the most enjoyable and useful aspect of studying at SDSC.

A highlight of the master’s program is the access to Australia’s strategic and defence policy community. SDSC is the premier centre in Australia for studies in this field. Accordingly, it has attracted lecturers who are world-renowned experts with extensive public service careers – like Paul Dibb, Des Ball and Hugh White. Students also have the opportunity to engage regularly in seminars with serving senior officials, offering valuable insight into contemporary policy challenges.

The Master of Strategic Studies provided me with a conceptual framework for thinking about real-world strategic considerations. After completing the master’s program, I worked at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and I now work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

For those considering post-graduate study, my unsolicited advice is to spend some time thinking about what you want to do with the knowledge and skills you hope to develop at university. If you want to work on Australian strategic policy, go study at SDSC.