What is it like to be enrolled in the Master of Security Policy Program? Meet Steph Bossert, MNSP'25. Steph is an active-duty Air Force information operations officer stationed in North Carolina. Before Duke, she studied psychology and spent a couple of years stationed abroad in the U.K. Steph enjoys the program's flexibility, as she can have a graduate school experience while continuing to work full-time. 


What did you hope to gain through the MNSP program?

I hoped to gain a more nuanced understanding of national security policy, strategy, and institutions that work in concert to advance national interests. I was stationed in the U.K. for a few years early in my career, traveling to several embassies across Europe. I witnessed first-hand how national strategy is translated and implemented at the operational level. I also recognized that the military is just one tool leaders can leverage to achieve security objectives. Through the program, I hoped to better understand the “bigger picture” and the strategy that guides how, when, and where the military is leveraged as well as the other tools used to achieve strategic end states.

Why did you choose Duke?

The prospect of receiving a Duke education while also being able to continue to work fulltime was very appealing to me. Taking off fulltime from work was not an option, so I’ve really appreciated the flexibility of the program. I also really liked the idea of the immersion periods and getting that graduate school experience by being on campus sporadically throughout the program. I chose the 20-month option vs 12-month because I wanted time to absorb the material and really learn, not just rush through it while juggling other commitments. It’s been great to have the time and space to think deeply about national security issues… one 1,500-word essay at a time :)

Steph Bossert MNSP

does a particular project or course stand out to you? 

In one of our courses “Institutions of National Security,” we had to write an action memo to learn how policy is implemented and coordinated across different agencies and institutions. I wrote mine about an issue that had recently affected me—extending Chapter 35 Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Benefits to active-duty dependents.

Ch. 35 Benefits provide education assistance to spouses and children of service members killed in the line of duty, who died due to service-related injuries or permanently disabled. I qualify for these benefits due to my father’s service and sacrifice; however, due to current restrictions set by the VA, I am disqualified from receiving them while on active duty.

My professor, Dr. Burke, gave us an opportunity to rework the memo for a higher grade. After I met with her to discuss my memo, she encouraged me to write an op-ed advocating for policy change instead of rewriting the memo for a higher grade.

Thanks to her and my classmates’ support, my Op-ed was published in the Stars & Stripes and I’m currently working with my Congressman and the VA to change the policy. It’s been neat “actioning” the memo in real life and seeing how policy is made from Congress’s role in approval and appropriations to the different Departments and their respective roles.

To me, this experience sums up the value of a Duke education and what graduate school is all about. It’s not just about getting good grades but using what you learn in the classroom and making an impact, however big or small, beyond the classroom.

Steph Bossert and friends
Steph Bossert and friends in the program. 

What is most valuable about the in-person immersions? 

The ability to interact in person and get to know the cohort and professors has been invaluable. I’ve really enjoyed the in-person immersions because the learning is unparalleled. The program also always brings in terrific guest speakers from a range of impressive backgrounds from the State and Justice Departments to the military and CIA.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve learned more from my professors’ and classmates’ experiences than any material or course reading. The professors all have such impressive backgrounds in national security from a COCOM Commander, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, to experienced State and Defense Department officials. They all bring these experiences into the classroom and help contextualize the material.

Additionally, I’ve really enjoyed learning from my classmates and their diverse backgrounds. They all have experience in national security either from Capitol Hill, the private sector, or the military, and it’s been neat learning from them. I’ve made some great friends in the program and look forward to staying in touch after graduation and watching all the great things they will go on and achieve.