Forging Innovation: The Women of NPS

The Women of NPS profiles

The Naval Postgraduate School Community has been producing brilliant leaders and impactful research since it opened its doors in 1909. Diversity of thought and experience is critical to progress and our ability to advance defense and technology in America and to maintain a competitive edge around the world.

On March 19, 1917, during World War I, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels authorized women to enlist into the U.S. Navy. Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first woman to enlist in the Navy two days later. Fast forward to 1950 when the first woman officer, Lt. Elinor J. Writt, was appointed to attend NPS. She graduated at the top of her class with an MS in Aerological Engineering in June 1951, the first class to graduate from the Monterey campus. In January 1956, the first group of women students arrived to study at the Naval Postgraduate School. Among the group was the first African American woman to study at NPS.

As our Nation faces new challenges at home and abroad, the women of NPS continue to advance gender parity in technology and forge innovation across a number of fields to give America its competitive advantage.

Frank Giordano

In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Frank Giordano

We are saddened to share the passing of Professor Emeritus Frank Giordano, whose well-deserved reputation as a pillar in the education of military officers was easily re-enforced by an impressive 47-year career in both active duty and academia. Giordano graduated at the top of his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1964, serving a total of 31 years in the U.S. Army before retiring as a Brigadier General, committing 21 of those years to teaching mathematics to cadets at his alma mater.

As NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau noted in a message to the university community, "Professor Emeritus Giordano was and is the epitome of a warrior scholar, and a stalwart pillar of NPS."


Brenda Shaffer, PhD
Faculty Associate – Research, Energy Academic Group

Dr. Brenda Shaffer is a Research faculty member of the Energy Academic Group at the Naval Postgraduate School. Shaffer focuses on global energy trends and policies, politics and energy in the South Caucasus and greater Caspian and Black Sea regions, Iranian natural gas exports, ethnic politics in Iran, and Eastern Mediterranean energy. She also is a Senior Advisor for Energy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank and a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center in Washington, D.C.
Shaffer frequently provides research and expert counsel to international institutions, governments, energy companies, financial institutions and regional security organizations. She has served as an advisor to Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Energy on policy related to the major natural gas discoveries in Israel. Shaffer has advised several companies involved in Caspian energy production and export. She has given testimony to several committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the European Parliament. She frequently appears on Bloomberg TV and in major news outlets worldwide to provide insight on developments in the global oil market.

You recently moderated the Energy Security in Turmoil panel at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey, which discussed how governments can promote in tandem security and growth of energy markets. Can you provide us with a snapshot of how the severe volatility of global energy markets is a threat to U.S. national security and global security at large? And what can the U.S. do to mitigate these threats?

Energy affects almost every aspect of modern life, including economic prosperity, national security, public health, the environment, and climate. Energy is the most widely traded good, so energy prices have a huge impact on economic trends. Energy is also the biggest input into the costs of manufacturing, which often determine economic competitiveness. Successful energy security is essential for producing good outcomes in most public spheres.

Energy security is an integral element of national security. First of all, most of the U.S. military’s fuel supplies run on civilian supply lines and infrastructure. Thus, unreliable supplies of fuel and electricity affect the military. High energy prices can trigger global recession, which will weaken the industrial output of the United States and its allies and thus their ability to support their militaries. The current high energy prices have created a fertilizer shortage, which will likely lead to high food prices in the summer and global food shortages, which may affect millions and cause instability in many places in the globe.

In recent years, many have argued that U.S. energy policy should sacrifice one major goal to pursue another, promoting either the environment and climate or national security and the economy. Instead, we need to identify policies that can promote all these goals in tandem.

Europe’s energy crisis has been unfolding for some time, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented number of sanctions has made consumers all over the world acutely aware of how energy insecurity affects every major sphere of public life. For the military in particular, energy is a fundamental enabler of capability. In your opinion, how will the Russia-Ukraine conflict influence energy security, global markets, and defense now and in the coming years? 

Since the Soviet breakup, there have been three previous Ukraine-centered crises that should have been a wake-up call about the need to engage seriously in energy security policies. Over the last decade, Europe undertook some positive steps, such as building infrastructure to bring gas from the Caspian Sea into Europe and contracting new gas volumes along this infrastructure. This pipeline system can transit additional gas volumes in the future and help Europe out of this current crisis. However, Europe did not do enough to ensure its energy security, and some of its policies have actually hurt Europe’s energy security. For instance, the EU fought against long-term contracts for gas imports, seeking to encourage use of renewable energy. However, blocking the commission of additional gas supplies left Europe without adequate natural gas supplies, since most suppliers won’t produce gas unless they know there is a long-term market. In addition, many European states removed gas storage mandates, assuming that somehow market mechanisms would provide the backup gas. Europe over-relied on markets alone to deliver supplies. However, in energy security, like national security, the state still needs to be engaged.

Europe even had a small preview last winter to this current energy crisis. In the winter of 2020-2021, there were natural gas shortages that forced many power and heat producers to use fuel oil due to the lack of gas and the high prices. This crisis a year ago should have catalyzed Europe into action to address its energy security needs, but once the winter ended, so did the efforts to address the energy security challenges. Hopefully, this current crisis will spur long-term action to improve Europe’s energy security.

The United States also needs to re-integrate energy security into its national security policies. The administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance document does not even mention energy security. It mentions energy 10 times, seven of which are in the phrase “clean energy,” which means low-carbon energy. That is important, too, but fossil fuels still account for 75 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 85 percent of global energy consumption. It is important to address the security of both supply and price of the fuels in use today and not just in the future.

Why does NPS’ Energy Academic Group’s work to support global security studies matter? What kind of impact does the research, solutions and international work of the NPS community have on energy security and energy politics?  

NPS’s Energy Academic Group engages in important and very fulfilling work that contributes to the U.S. military’s operational energy needs and strengthens the resilience of U.S. energy infrastructure and that of allies and partners abroad.

What led you to the Naval Postgraduate School and what is the most rewarding part of your work here? 

I feel very fortunate to work at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. A person is lucky when his or her work and passion and values overlap. The work we are engaged in has great meaning for me. There is a truly intellectual environment at the school. We can freely debate issues. The students are at a very high level and engage enthusiastically in their studies.

I am researching and writing a textbook with two colleagues on operational energy. It will be used in courses to train and educate on the topic. I also teach courses sponsored by the Energy Academic Group, aimed at strengthening energy security and critical energy infrastructure protection in allied and partner countries. I am also very involved in our engagements with NATO centers of excellence. It is great to engage with energy and defense professionals in many countries. Most of those we meet appreciate the American effort to improve the defense of their energy systems and their energy security.

We’d love to know more about your personal research. What is something you are currently working on, or have recently worked on, that you find particularly interesting or impactful? 

I engage in research on energy security trends and policies, with special emphasis on the interplay between natural gas and foreign policy and European energy security. I am also interested in the politics of the Caspian Sea region, especially Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey. I have just completed a book manuscript on ethnic politics in Iran. In addition to working on the operational energy textbook, I have begun research and writing a book on U.S. energy policy. The book aims to identify how the United States can reach all energy related goals — national security, economic prosperity, environment and climate.


Maj. Domonique Hittner: Importance of STEM education in the DOD
PhD Student, Modeling Virtual Environments and Simulation (MOVES) Institute


1st Lt. Emily Hastings, USMC
Manpower Systems Analysis '23

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Emily Hastings is a current student in the Naval Postgraduate School Manpower Systems Analysis program pursuing efficient talent management, within the DOD, using econometric models. She enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2011 and commissioned as an officer in November 2017. Prior to coming to NPS, she served as a Manpower Officer for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122. She holds an MBA in industrial and organizational psychology from Johnson & Wales University and a bachelor’s degree in social psychology from Park University. 

What brought you to NPS and what, so far, has been the most impactful part of your time here?

The Marine Corps selected me to come to NPS via the Commandant's Career-Level Education Board. My experience at NPS thus far has been enriching personally and professionally. I am not sure I can say that just one piece of it has been most impactful. Taking Professor Helzer's class GB 3010: Managing for Organizational Effectiveness course was an incredibly impactful way for me to feel as though my passion and enthusiasm for change was not only allowable at NPS, but that it was welcomed. I truly believe that I am exactly where I am supposed to be to continue my quest in quantifying individuals' personal and valuable contributions in the military through action on innovation.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current studies and personal research? Anything you are finding particularly interesting or valuable?

Being a student at NPS opens up your mind in a way that you have so much to study, learn and understand about the world not just from a military perspective. It can be difficult to choose exactly what to focus on now, in our current climate.  

Throughout my academic pursuits and my time as a Manpower Officer at VMFA-122, I have been fascinated by why people choose to join the military, what encourages them to stay in the military and the overall fulfillment of their time in the service. Currently, I am focused on how we effectively form groups in the military to manage change. While en route to NPS, I read the books "Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen" by Dan Heath, "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know" by Adam Grant and "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. I have since been inspired and drawn to how we best appreciate our people, adopt new ways of problem-framing, collectively work together to solve problems, and form groups in the Marine Corps to embrace change. I am also exploring how we value our changemakers and mavericks that we are at risk of losing if we do not connect a qualitative way to value them as people not just as a number (the irony is intentional). This is a challenging pursuit as the status quo has been centered around the idea of how every service member is essentially replaceable. 

What are NPS's greatest strengths in changing the military's mindset about innovation and innovation adoption? How has the Innovation Leadership course influenced your studies? 

Enhancing NPS' reputation through its ability to connect and provide solutions to current problems in the fleet, welcoming and onboarding new and current students through the student all-volunteer force, the President's Board for Student Affairs, receiving thoughtful feedback from faculty in an imaginative way (credit to Mie Augier), offering courses that are not necessarily technical in nature but extremely relevant, such as the Innovation Leadership Course and Manpower Economics (taught by Tom Ahn) are all ways that we strengthen the core of NPS (the students) and increase our impact on the fleet. Additionally, NPS aids in enhancing our competitiveness by supporting critical thinking development, which our adversaries, arguably, are not doing.    

NPS is a unique place where students have the opportunity to affect real, necessary change that the force, and the American people protected by our services, need more than ever. The Innovation Leadership course exposed me to the world of possibility in which culture change is possible, and likely probable, if we can grasp how to look at it and take action from a new perspective armed with the tools centered around listening for concerns within communities. 

The Naval Postgraduate School Foundation is preparing to transfer Project Athena, a research collaboration tool built securely in MS Teams, to NPS. From what you know about Project Athena, how will it impact NPS and the DOD? 

Todd Lyons brought me into the Athena project, I was unable to be involved as much as I would have liked during the early stages, due to my Q3 curriculum, but I have had the opportunity to see the tool in action and provide a student perspective. 

Athena is an extremely exciting tool that will allow for much needed connection on real-time efforts across the DOD. Athena will feed into an even greater effort to connect us. I find initiatives like this not only necessary and stimulating but also affirming to me as a student who is interested in the need to connect efficiently so that we can increase our impact on how we deliver solutions to the fleet and produce stronger operational outcomes overall. Athena will be a game changer for the DOD.

While doing our background research, we found a quote from a young marine identifying you as someone that inspires her "because Hastings keeps achieving her goals no matter what stands in her way." Who is someone that you admire or that inspires you in your career and why? 

My mother who raised five children on her own, worked four jobs (at times), is currently an educator for troubled youth, politician, and overall saint for supporting all my efforts is my greatest inspiration. There is simply no way to summarize all the ways that she shows selfless service every day, to every person she meets and continues to believe that compassion, coupled with critical thought in problem solving, is the right way to be an effective changemaker. She also ‘put up’ with my antics for 18 years (and continues to do so), so she deserves many awards for that. She taught me how to stand up for what I believe in but to also never miss an opportunity to keep my mouth shut, allowing others to be a part of the conversation.

Wendy Leece is a force and if I accomplish even a fraction of what she has in her career and life, I will have accomplished a lot. One of her favorite quotes is, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children” (--Dietrich Bonhoeffer), which when read through a military lens, is exactly what NPS can do for its future military personnel: enable them to provide for a stronger military force beyond our tour here. 

What are your professional goals? How has your time at NPS influenced those goals and your career trajectory? 

I believe that in order for the Marine Corps and DOD to remain vigilant in efforts mentioned in documents such as Talent Management 2030, we need to partner accredited academics with service members and continue to consult with outside organizations to get the best perspective on how we manage change. Ideally, I would like to pursue a doctorate in social psychology so that I can continue to engage in change from the 'phase zero' approach, thus allowing for the Marines in the trenches to understand their greater purpose for service in and outside of their time in the military. I plan to propose to the Marine Corps a way for me to further my education in social and industrial/organizational psychology. I’d like to use that education to connect industry to the insight that only service members have about how culture change can work with our constraints. I do not believe that we can model culture change in the ways that Fortune 500 companies do, but we can pull and apply best practices to enhance our efficiency and retain our top talent that considers leaving the service specifically because of the culture.

Dr. Jae Jun Kim

Bonnie Johnson, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Information Sciences

Dr. Bonnie Johnson is a senior lecturer with the Systems Engineering Department at the Naval Postgraduate School. She has a BS in physics from Virginia Tech, an MS in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins, and a PhD in systems engineering from NPS. Johnson’s research focuses on two main areas: automation/artificial intelligence for defense applications and directed energy warfare studies. She leads research involving various organizations in the Navy, Army Marine Corps and Air Force as well as industry partners in directed energy laser weapon systems, automated battle management aids, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and complex systems. Johnson is the 2022 recipient, along with Dr. Mark Orescanin, of the Richard W. Hamming Faculty Award for Interdisciplinary Achievement. Prior to working at NPS, Johnson was a senior systems engineer with Northrop Grumman and SAIC, working on Naval and Joint air and missile defense systems.

Your research involves various organizations across the Department of Defense, multiple industry partners, and is interdisciplinary cross-department within NPS. How is NPS distinctly positioned and equipped for this type of collaborative research? 

NPS is the perfect place for researching interdisciplinary solutions to military challenges — I call these "hard problems." There are three factors that lead to NPS being uniquely qualified for this:  (1) the students — they are knowledgeable and already engaged in these hard problems either as warfighters or civilians, (2) the faculty knowledge and experience that spans many disciplines, and (3) the community of learning, camaraderie and enthusiasm for solving these problems. 

As we rely more and more on AI/ML systems, many are concerned that we are creating more cyber vulnerabilities. How can we ensure that these systems are protected from adversarial attack? What measures are taken to mitigate vulnerabilities? 

This is one of the "hard problems" that DOD and the Navy need to tackle. There are many types of cyberattacks, and this threat is constantly changing as adversaries seek new ways of intrusion, information access, corruption, disruption, spoofing, and even taking control of our warfare systems. As we develop and implement AI/ML systems, we are making systems more intelligent. If hackers gain control of intelligent systems, the impacts could have more severe consequences. One of the solution strategies I'm pursuing is something I'm calling metacognition. This approach takes advantage of the "intelligence" of AI systems — embedding these systems with metacognitive abilities to gain self-awareness to detect possible cyber intrusions or unusual circumstances and raise "red flags" of potential cyberattacks to the human operators.

You have had ample interaction and time with NPS students through your research/thesis advisory work, teaching and multiple interdisciplinary research projects. How would you characterize the NPS student body? How does their operational experience impact their academic work? 

My primary focus at NPS is research and I know that when my students begin their thesis or capstone research, they are ready — they have actual operational/warfighting experience or on-the-job engineering experience and they have acquired a world-class foundation of systems engineering knowledge through the courses they have just taken at NPS. They may also have taken specialty courses in other NPS departments such as in Physics, Operations Research, Information Sciences or Computer Sciences. This helps them quickly climb the "learning curve" necessary to understand "hard military problems," and identify and analyze technological solutions to these problems.
However, the secret superpower that really differentiates NPS students from students at any other university is their enthusiasm and inherent drive — they are very cognizant of the importance of their work, and how critical it is to making a positive difference in the world. This sets them apart!

What led you to NPS and what is most rewarding about your work here? 

I first visited NPS in the late 90s as a young engineer attending a conference. Having grown up and spent most of my time on the East Coast, several things made a huge impression on me: Herrmann Hall — so beautiful and vintage with the maze and peacocks, the wondrous cactus garden, and the fancy clothing that the students and faculty used to wear (sports jackets and turtlenecks for the men and often dresses and skirts for the women). NPS seemed like an enchanting place! Fast forward a couple decades to 2011, and it was very exciting to start working for NPS. This brings me to what is the most rewarding about my job — and it is the ideas. NPS is a community of brilliant people — all actively learning, acquiring more knowledge, brainstorming, sharing ideas and collaborating. The military focus of this pursuit toward new and better ideas provides a sense of making the world a better place.

We’d love to know more about your personal research. What is something you are currently working on, or have recently worked on, that you find particularly interesting or impactful? 

I am very fortunate to get to pursue pretty much any research topic that interests me. Several examples of particularly interesting projects come to mind, but I'll stick to describing one of them. I call it the "Cognitive Laser." I had been working with the DOD laser community for a number of years, studying many different aspects of laser weapon systems I had also been working on applying advanced analytics and AI to tactical decision aids for warfighters. It occurred to me that these interdisciplinary areas needed to come together. Future laser weapon system operators would need AI-enabled decision aids to help them operate these highly complex systems.  My NPS colleague and friend, Dr. Ying Zhao, from the Information Sciences department, came up with the name "Cognitive Laser" and encouraged me to pursue it. Many NPS students have now engaged in this research and the laser community now has a dedicated track during their annual symposium for AI applications for lasers. It is fascinating research and exciting to see this interdisciplinary topic evolve. 

You were recently awarded the Hamming Award for Interdisciplinary Achievement. How does it feel to be awarded this honor?

It is thrilling to win this award!


Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, USN (Ret)

Appointed as NPS Undersea Warfare Chair


Calling all NPS Alumni, Students, Faculty & Staff!

Nominate yourself or another NPS community member to be featured in a future Faces of NPS enewsletter.


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