Baker Students Gain Firsthand Experience in National Security Research
Becoming a Baker student gives you opportunities and experiences that the classroom can’t provide. You help prepare for events that include former ambassadors, present your research in front of a former senator, and get hands-on training in local, state, and federal government. Or, like two of our students, you might be able to assist one of our research centers’ directors in preparing to speak in front of government and military officials worldwide.
In 2022, Dr. Krista Wiegand, director of the Center for National Security and Foreign Affairs (NSFA), participated in three Pacific Forum international security dialogues. Present at these talks were a mix of retired government, military, and diplomatic officials from the United States, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines. Dr. Wiegand was invited to speak at these dialogues as a subject matter expert with 25 years of research on territorial and maritime disputes.
Leading up to these dialogues, Dr. Wiegand relied on her research assistant students, Aom Boon, and Nolan Ragland, to help her prepare. “To be well versed on the latest developments in the Indo-Pacific region and have the breadth of understanding multiple perspectives that I needed to effectively make policy recommendations, I was fortunate to have Aom and Nolan help me with research.”
Boon used qualitative and quantitative research to conduct a data collection process in order to get data on the issues, strategies, and foreign policy behavioral responses between the U.S. and countries in the Indo-Pacific. Ragland compiled key points about Indo-Pacific security and the rise of China from the U.S. National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, official policy from the White House and Pentagon to understand better how the U.S. government seeks to engage with partners and allies in the region and counter the rise of China.
For Boon, this was her first research project experience, but it quickly allowed her to familiarize herself with research procedures. “This experience has taught me how to efficiently maneuver around multiple databases and get the most out of them,” she said. Boon graduated in spring 2024 with a bachelor’s in political science and a French minor. This fall, she begins the Masters of Public Policy and Administration program at the Baker School, where she says she will be able to effectively apply the research skills she gained while working on this project.
Ragland, who graduated Summa Cum Laude this past spring with dual degrees in political science and global studies, began his Ph.D. studies at the University of Wisconsin this fall. His work on the security dialogue research enhanced his ability to research and synthesize a variety of sources, something that helped him feel prepared for his upcoming studies. “Working with Dr. Wiegand on this project helped me understand what information is most relevant for the intersection of academia and policy,” stated Ragland. “And how to quickly prepare a presentation and learn vast amounts of information.”
The research experience isn’t the only thing these students took away from this project. Ragland took away just as much knowledge from working with Dr. Wiegand as he did in the actual work. “Seeing Dr. Wiegand’s enthusiasm in taking on new projects and always desire to learn more is something I hope to utilize in my own career.” He had worked previously with Dr. Wiegand, collecting research material to code data for her upcoming book project and transcribing interviews with various individuals for her written articles. This was Boon’s first project with Dr. Wiegand, but it led to her becoming Dr. Wiegand’s graduate teaching assistant for the fall semester.
Being a Baker student prepares you for what comes next, whether it is the research projects you work on or the one-on-one experience with the directors and professors.