School of Public and International Affairs - National Security Leadership Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs School of Public and International Affairs - National Security Leadership Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs School of Public and International Affairs - National Security Leadership Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs
SPIA National Security Executive Leadership Program - OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 4, 2022-  ONLINE ONLY - Virginia Tech Executive Briefing Center - Arlington, VA
SPIA National Security Executive Leadership Program - OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 4, 2022-  ONLINE ONLY - Virginia Tech Executive Briefing Center - Arlington, VA
SPIA National Security Executive Leadership Program - OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 4, 2022-  ONLINE ONLY - Virginia Tech Executive Briefing Center - Arlington, VA

2021 Speakers

Keynote Speaker

photo of speaker Sean O'Keefe is a University Professor at Syracuse University. He previously served on the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations staff for eight years, Comptroller for the Department of Defense (1989-1992), Secretary of the Navy (1992–1993), Deputy Director Office of Management and Budget (2001), Administrator of NASA (2001–2004), Chancellor of Louisiana State University (2005–2008), CEO of EADS North America / Airbus Group North American Unit (2009–2014). O’Keefe earned his Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse University.

Program Director

photo of speaker Mehrzad Boroujerdi is Director of the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech and was previously a professor of Political Science at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs for over two dozen years. He is the author/editor of four books and has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on the Middle East. Dr. Boroujerdi has also been a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and UT-Austin, a visiting scholar at UCLA, President of the Association for Iranian Studies, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute (Washington, D.C.), and a fellow of the American Council on Education. He has done consulting work for Booz Allen Hamilton, Camber Corporation, Centra, L-3 Communications, Merrill Lynch, and Statoil among others. Dr. Boroujerdi has been interviewed by numerous national and international media outlets such as Al Jazeera, Associated Press, Economist, Guardian, LA Times, NPR, New York Times, Reuters, Spiegel and Washington Post.

photo of speaker Ariel I. Ahram is associate professor and chair of the government and international affairs program in Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs in Arlington. He is the author of War and Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (Polity, 2020), Break All the Borders: Separatism and the Reshaping of the Middle East (Oxford UP, 2019), and Proxy Warriors: The Rise and Fall of State Sponsored Militias (Stanford UP, 2011). He is primary investigator on a Carnegie Corporation grant to explore conflict resolution in proxy wars and has consulted to numerous government agencies on terrorism and non-state actors.

photo of speaker Dr. Jonathan Black is a Professor in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech (VT), Director of the Aerospace and Ocean Systems Laboratory of the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology, Co-Director of the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research and the Northrop Grumman Senior Faculty Fellow in C4ISR. Prior to joining VT, Dr. Black served as a faculty member in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. There he was the founding Director of the Center for Space Research and Assurance. As Director, Dr. Black focused the center's efforts on the execution of cutting-edge space technology development and scientific space experiments; managed and executed the annual $2 million center research portfolio; and briefed senior Department of Defense and Intelligence Community leadership advising national strategy. He served as PI or Co-PI on five spaceflight experiments. At VT, Dr. Black works at the intersection of mission platforms and mission payloads. He earned his master's degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from George Washington University and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky.

photo of speaker Ryan N. Burnette is the Vice President at Merrick & Company and leads the Life Sciences practice. He is an international biorisk management practitioner with a strong focus on biosecurity and biodefense. To date, Dr. Burnette has worked with over 100 universities, biopharmaceutical clients, and governments, practicing extensively in the U.S., Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, India, and the Caribbean on biosafety/biosecurity and laboratory capacity building. He frequently supports missions on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, as well as many foreign ministries. Dr. Burnette is the author and editor of one of the authoritative volumes in biosecurity, entitled Biosecurity: Understanding, Assessing and Preventing the Threat. His second book, Applied Biosecurity: Global Health, Defense, and Developing Technologies, was released in June of 2021.

photo of speaker Ambassador Joel Danies joined the United States Foreign Service in 1987 and retired in 2020. During his tenure, he served in the following posts: General Services Officer to the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen; staff assistant to the Ambassador and later as Vice-Consul Embassy in Paris, France; staff assistant and Legislative Management Officer in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs; Press and Public Affairs Officer to the President’s Special Representative on Haiti; Colombia Desk Officer in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL); Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for Global Affairs; Management Officer at U.S. Embassy, Belize; Human Rights Officer (2001-2004) and Political Counselor (2004-2005) at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Post Management Officer in the Executive Office of the European and International Organizations Bureaus; Office of the Undersecretary for Management Innovation Division; Deputy Director of INL at the US Embassy in Kabul (2009-2010), Afghanistan; Deputy Special Coordinator for Haiti (2010-2013); Chief of Staff in the Bureau of Administration (2013-2016); Associate Dean at the Foreign Institute’s School of Professional and Area Studies (2016-2018); and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Gabonese Republic, and to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe (2018-2020).

Originally born in Haiti he grew up in New York and in Baltimore, Maryland. He received an MA from the National War College and a B.A. from the University of Maryland. He speaks French, Haitian Creole, and some Arabic.

photo of speaker Sonya Finley is a professor of strategy at the National War College and has taught at Georgetown University, The Eisenhower School, and the United States Military Academy at West Point. She retired as a U.S. Army Colonel after a 26-year career with key assignments as a strategist/strategic advisor, planner, and speechwriter for senior uniformed leaders in the Republic of Korea, Iraq, and Washington D.C., as well as the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy (Plans). Dr. Finley is a former East-West Center fellow and former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds a BA from Emory University, an MPA from Cornell University, a Certificate in Strategic Thinking and Management for Competitive Advantage from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.

photo of speaker Laura Freeman is the Director of the Hume Center’s Intelligent Systems Lab and Associate Professor of Research in the Department of Statistics, Virginia Tech. Her research leverages experimental methods for conducting research that brings together cyber-physical systems, data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to address critical challenges in national security. Previously, she has served as the Assistant Director of the Operational Evaluation Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and the acting Senior Technical Advisor for Director Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E). Dr. Freeman has a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, an M.S. in Statistics, and a Ph.D. in Statistics, all from Virginia Tech.

photo of speaker Todd Harrison is the director of Defense Budget Analysis and the director of the Aerospace Security Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). As a senior fellow in the International Security Program, he leads CSIS’s efforts to provide in-depth, nonpartisan research and analysis of defense funding, space security, and air power issues. He has authored publications on trends in the overall defense budget, military space systems, civil space exploration, defense acquisitions, military compensation, military readiness, nuclear forces, and the cost of overseas military operations. He frequently contributes to print and broadcast media and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, NPR, Al Jazeera English, C-SPAN, PBS, and Fox News. He teaches classes on military space systems and the defense budget at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Mr. Harrison is a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing and a member of the Defense News Advisory Board. He has worked previously at Booz Allen Hamilton, and was a senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Mr. Harrison, who served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, is a graduate of MIT with both a B.S. and an M.S. in aeronautics and astronautics.

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Margarita Konaev is a Research Fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) interested in military applications of AI and Russian military innovation. Previously, she was a Non-Resident Fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point, a post-doctoral fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. Before joining CSET, she worked as a Senior Principal in the Marketing and Communications practice at Gartner. Margarita’s research on international security, armed conflict, non-state actors and urban warfare in the Middle East, Russia and Eurasia has been published by the Journal of Strategic Studies, the Journal of Global Security Studies, Conflict Management and Peace Science, the French Institute of International Relations, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Lawfare, War on the Rocks, Defense One, Modern War Institute, Foreign Policy Research Institute and a range of other outlets. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame, an M.A. in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Brandeis University.

photo of speaker Ed McGrady is Adjunct Senior Fellow, Defense Program at Center for a New American Security, and Principal at MonksHood Media LLC. Dr. McGrady has written, taught, and presented on the topic of games and their use in organizational and individual learning. He has designed and run games for many different clients ranging from the White House to the Department of Agriculture. Dr. McGrady has deployed as an analyst with US Forces in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy, onboard USS Nimitz for Desert Storm and with operational E-2C squadrons. He holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and has published extensively in the Chemical Engineering, physics, and national security literature.

photo of speaker Congressman James (Jim) Moran began his career in the Comptroller’s Office of the US Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare. He went on to become Senior Specialist in Budgetary and Fiscal Policy for the Library of Congress. From there he became a Professional Staff Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

He left the Senate staff in 1980 to pursue a political career. After serving as Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1990. During his Congressional career, he was a member of the Budget, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committees. In his 22 years on Appropriations, he was a member of the Defense, Interior, Health & Human Services, Veterans Affairs and Military, Foreign Operations, and Legislative Branch Subcommittees.

The Congressman was a member of the Steering and Policy Committee and founded the New Democratic Coalition. This is currently the largest Caucus in the Congress and represents moderate, pro-business Democratic members.

Congressman Moran is a member of the School of Public and International Affairs’ Advisory Board.

photo of speaker Eric Paterson is the executive director of the Hume Center for national security and technology since 2019, and was appointed executive director of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute in September 2021.

Paterson has nearly 30 years of experience at Harris Corporation, the University of Iowa, Penn State, and Virginia Tech, including many years as a research faculty. While at Penn State, he held a dual-title appointment as chief scientist of computational mechanics at the Applied Research Laboratory, a Navy university-affiliated research center, and professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering. Throughout his career, his research has engaged the broader defense and intelligence communities.

His research interests are in the broad area of fluid dynamics, heat transfer, computational physics, and high-performance computing. He is most enthusiastic about applied research where our efforts have direct impact on the design, analysis, and operation of real-world systems.

Paterson holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Iowa, a M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Iowa, and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Iowa.

photo of speaker Patrick S. Roberts is an associate professor of public administration and policy at the School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech. He has served as a full political scientist at RAND Corporation where he worked on homeland and national security issues. Dr. Roberts also served as a senior foreign policy advisor in the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (2017-2018) as a Council on Foreign Relations Stanton International Affairs Fellow in Nuclear Security. He is the author of Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Dr. Roberts holds a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Virginia and completed two postdoctoral fellowships, one at Harvard University and another at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation. Finally, he spent a year as the Ghaemian Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

photo of speaker Dr. Sezaneh Seymour is the Senior Advisor to the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology on the National Security Council. For over fifteen years Sezaneh has held various domestic and foreign policy roles at the nexus of national security, emerging technology, sustainability, and trade. Most recently, she served as a Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in the Executive Office of the President where she was responsible for negotiating and enforcing trade agreements. Prior to that role, she served at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and at the U.S. Department of State. She received her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs.

photo of speaker Mary Lynn Schnurr is currently an Executive Consultant to General Dynamics Information Technology and chair of the School of Public and International Affairs Advisory Board. She previously held such positions as Vice President, Defense Intelligence (2013- 2017), Army Intelligence Chief Information Officer for the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2 (DCS, G-2), Director of the Intelligence Community Information Management Directorate, and Vice President at General Dynamics - GDIT for Strategic Defense and Military Intelligence Accounts. Ms. Schnurr served 32 years in Army Intelligence and was a recognized senior leader who proactively led Army Intelligence to IT consolidation and centralization aligning to the IC's Intelligence Technology Efficiency initiatives. She was recognized for her distinguished service by becoming a 2020 Military Intelligence Hall of Fame Inductee.

photo of speaker Heather Trew is the Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Intelligence at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, after having served for several years as the deputy in that office. She is a member of the Senior Executive Service. Prior to her six years at Treasury, she spent eight years at the Department of Justice, where she served in the National Security Division, including as a Deputy Unit Chief. She has focused her legal career on national security topics. Prior to her government service, she was an associate attorney with the firms of Jenner & Block and Foley & Lardner. She holds a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and an A.B. from Stanford University.

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