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-Ryan Barrett, U.S. Air Force

University of Missiouri, St. Louis
Ph.D., Political Science

After his first deployment to Iraq, Ryan volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan for another year, which he now credits as the most profound learning experience of his life. There, the most important lesson he learned was developing actionable ideas; the Air Force taught him that implementing ideas is as important as the ideas themselves. He also consistently witnessed the power of heterogeneous teams accomplishing challenging tasks through pooling the respective skills of their members.

Now, separated from the military, Ryan is pursuing his Ph.D. in Political Science with a concentration on U.S. foreign security interests vis-à-vis Russia and the post-Soviet states. Currently, he is serving as a Boren Fellow in Belarus, and hopes to combine his military experience and knowledge of Russian culture and language to serve future U.S. security needs. After completing his dissertation research in Kiev, he plans to return to government service as a diplomat or analyst, with the goal to eventually pursue work in the private or nonprofit sector to further American interests in the region. He believes that ‘soft power’ and supporting the development of civil society in the region is critical to further democratization. A firm believer that education is the best tool to tap into potential, he also hopes to continue teaching politics and public policy as an adjunct professor to help impart civic values on the next generation.