Alumni Spotlight | Aly Breuer ’15
Q. You’re a recent graduate, but for those who don’t know you, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
A. After graduating I worked as the American Grand Strategy Program Coordinator for two years. Now I am living in D.C. but moving to London to continue work at the McChrystal Group. I also stay as involved as I can with AGS through the alumni network. At Duke, I was really involved with AGS, as well as the Duke Women’s Basketball Team as a manger, Greek life, studied abroad in Madrid, participated in the DukeImmerse program in South Africa that made me fall in love with travelling, which is one of my biggest passion in life (especially alone) and with experiencing different cultures.
Q. In what ways did AGS impact your goals, current profession, etc.? How did AGS prepare you to enter the “real world”?
A. AGS did a lot of things for me. The number one thing, however, which permeates everything I do is it built my confidence, not just in my knowledge base but also in my ability to communicate and influence other people. This professional development has made me more mature and helped me understand how to deal with people who are many levels above me, with far greater experience. This has helped me in my current role. I now work with people with backgrounds in national security and [my AGS experience] has helped me understand them more than the average 25-year-old.
Q. Looking back on your time at Duke and with AGS, what would you say was the most valuable lesson you learned?
A. Participating in staff rides as a resident, organizing as program coordinator, and then attending as an alum, has also expanded my ability to think critically about knowledge and question what we may take for granted. Staff rides force us to think of all these scenarios from different perspectives.
Q. Did you meet anyone during your time at AGS who deeply inspired you? Tell us about them and what about their life impacted you.
A. I met a lot pf people who inspired me through AGS. If I had to pick just one I would choose Sue Gordon; at the time [she came to campus she was] the deputy director at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Now she is the Principle Deputy Director of National Intelligence. She is a Duke alum who I connected with because she played basketball. What inspired me about her is that she studied zoology and played basketball, but immediately after college she went to the CIA. When I asked her about the transition from being zoology major to a CIA analyst, she answered that she did not doubt herself and went for it to take the risk. Often times women may suffer from imposter syndrome where we don’t think we are deserving of the jobs or accolades that we receive. Meanwhile her message was that ‘I got this job for a reason and I can take it and do it well (despite lacking experience)’ and that has been very inspiring to me. I don’t doubt myself now. I simply move on and try to do my job as best as I can. And this permeates all industries. I plan to take this lesson with me for the rest of my life.
Q. Do you wish there was anything you could go back and change about your time at Duke or with AGS? What would you do differently if you had another chance?
A. I wish I had taken more classes not just with Peter Feaver but with other political science professors as well. I branched a lot in my classes but looking back at the course list and think “those classes look so cool, why didn’t I take them.” But also, the grass is always greener on the other side. I wish I had been more deliberate about my internship searches during the summers. I think I was usually a little too lackadaisical with that and I would usually put together something last minute.
Q. Do you have advise or inspiration to offer current AGS students?
A. I would say for advice, never pass up an opportunity to not say something to listen instead. I’ve seen more so in my time working with students that AGS students in particular are very eager to contribute and add value, but sometimes (and we learn this in foreign policy), sometimes doing nothing is the best thing. Don’t pass up an opportunity to listen and learn when you are meeting these very inspirational and experienced people. Often times we want to think of the best question but in trying to think of the best question we don’t listen to what they are saying when they are answering everyone else’s questions.