Fascinated by the question of the use of the threat of force between globally connected societies, Nathalie Blakely came to The Australian National University (ANU) to undertake a Master of Strategic Studies after being awarded the New Zealand Defence Freyberg Scholarship. ANU was Nathalie’s first choice of postgraduate education because of the world class scholars of the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) and her admiration of its highly regarded law department. Her undergraduate background in law and international relations and work experience in New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, inspired her interest in the Indo-Pacific concept and framing of Australian and New Zealand strategic environments.
“I expected it to be a very strict, operational, tactical focus with a little bit of theory, but it actually gave me the luxury of learning about policy and breaking down theories or constructed aspects of conflict and war.”
Beyond coursework, Nathalie also founded the Women in Security group and served as Women’s Officer in the ANU Postgraduate and Research Student Association (PARSA). Together with fellow students, she worked to spotlight the under-representation of women’s academic voices in security studies. To SDSC’s credit, course conveners were receptive in listening and responding to student concerns – something that was representative of ANU more generally, she said.
“This industry is really starting to change its thinking in terms of encouraging more women to be a part of it. It’s important that ANU is a part of that.”
After graduating, Nathalie accepted a role as a policy analyst at New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence. “I’m a very big defence geek,” she says. Lessons that carry through from her Master in Strategic Studies include a greater situational awareness of the numerous factors that inform strategic environments.
“The feedback that they give you really aligns with what they expect in the sector. I really loved my time at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre for that. Both in terms of the writing and reading skills, but also the analytical thinking both inside and outside the box at the same time, that’s really unique about this programme.”
Nathalie’s advice to those thinking about a Master of Strategic Studies is to seize the moment, because the course flies by.
“Take advantage of every opportunity. I said to myself when I started not to say no to any opportunities that they throw at me, to apply for as much as I could, to make the time and go talk to lecturers, and really get involved in the community, both because they are really incredible people who you can learn so much from and you just don’t know who’s going to be connected to who in the sector”.
While Nathalie says the broader postgraduate social experience at ANU was ‘indescribable,’ right now she is enjoying her work as a policy analyst at the New Zealand Ministry of Defence - “just as long as I’m happy and geeking.”