What is it like to be enrolled in the Master of Security Policy Program? Meet Tessa Knight MNSP'25. Tessa is a former active duty Army Officer, with specialties in Military Police and Information Operations. She has worked at various levels in the military, most recently in Korea at the operational level. She served 8 years before deciding to join the cohort. She is now balancing motherhood, a part-time job and the program.

What did you hope to gain through the MNSP program?

Woman smiling at camera
Tessa Knight MNSP'24

I wanted to expand upon my understanding of policy development as it applies to the security sector. After working in Korea and being exposed to how senior military leaders make decisions - especially as they affect our international presence - I grew an appreciation for the complexities and dynamics surrounding such decisions. I wanted to understand the mechanisms that have postured the United States security apparatus as it currently stands.

Why did you choose Duke?

I felt the program closely aligned with my experiences, which made me feel like I would have something to contribute to the classroom but also challenge my current assumptions. The hybrid aspect of the program was a particular draw as well.

What have you learned that will impact your current or future role?

This is a great question! I have discovered how incredibly multifaceted this subject is, and particularly as I'm transitioning in my career, it's opened up my eyes to the opportunities to contribute in this space. National Security Policy development, and the considerations that surround this policy development, are all about relationships, as most things are. At what level, and context, those relationships exist matters when it comes to policy development. One can be an expert in any one of the numerous aspects of this field, but one can never deny the importance of relationships on decision making.

does a project or course stand out? 

The Ethics in National Security course really impacted me. Having trained and worked in a military context for my entire adult life thus far, I gained a new perspective of the U.S. Army's role in national security and my own participation in it. The ethical considerations with which I have personally struggled during my career mirror, in some ways, those of decision makers. It was fascinating to see how disagreements and different perspectives were reconciled at the highest levels - specifically as they related to decisions that had a dramatic ripple effect on the world. 

The Ethics in National Security course really impacted me. Having trained and worked in a military context for my entire adult life thus far, I gained a new perspective of the U.S. Army's role in national security and my own participation in it.

What is most valuable about the in-person immersions?

The in-person immersions are absolutely essential to creating cohesion in the cohort. That is the most valuable aspect - it influences how the class interacts and how we build academic trust between us. It has made the difference between other online courses and this hybrid course.

Do the immersions enhance your learning experience? 

I thrive in a classroom environment, so team projects - in person - completely enhance my learning. It's also nice to feel like an actual Duke student, even though we don't walk the campus every day. The MNSP team has done a particularly good job trying to give us a student experience during our short immersion periods.

Tessa in classroom with a fellow student, she's gesturing, he's leaning in and smiling
Tessa with a fellow MNSP student during one of the on campus Duke immersions.

Who has been impactful or supportive to you? 

I've made some wonderful friends within my cohort - people that I intend to stay in touch with after we graduate and whom I hope will influence my future endeavors. From the faculty, both Mark Hart and Tim Nichols have been very easy to work with (which has made all the difference as I juggle a very different home life than school life), and I've stayed in contact with a handful of the professors. This is one of the best aspects of the course: the professors are incredibly willing to engage a student if asked.

How do you balance coursework with work and life? 

Transparent deadlines and clear expectations have allowed me to anticipate and plan around class throughout the week and upcoming assignments. I've found it most helpful to develop a routine of reading, writing, and attending class. I'm a 20-month student, so it's been busy, but not overwhelming, and I've been able to balance my responsibilities and a part-time job while I attend. I also primarily utilize the weekends to complete the coursework.

What's most valuable overall?

This program has brought in instructors and guest speakers that have made incredible contributions to the national security realm, who have made themselves accessible to candid discussion and mentorship. This has been one of the best aspects of the program.

Anything else you’d like to share?

 For military professionals, this is a course that will stretch you but also make you feel at home. For non-military professionals - you'll have to learn some acronyms. :)