Alumni Spotlight | Chelsea Goldstein '10
Graduation Year: 2010
Degree: B.A. Political Science
Q. Tell us a little about yourself...what you do now, what you’ve done since graduating.
A. After leaving Duke, I got a job at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), an
agency under the Department of Defense that looks at WMD issues around the world.
When I first got there, I worked on issues related to military planning in Europe. After a
year, I switched my focus to military planning in the Middle East. During that time, I
worked on a project developing a contingency plan about the destruction of chemical
weapons. At the time, I didn’t think the plan would ever see use, but the US actually
ended up getting access to Syria’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons, so the plan
I had worked on became the primary plan for destroying them.
Later on, I was detailed into the defense policy office in the Pentagon after the Ebola
epidemic broke out, because response efforts to global pandemics are similar to
response efforts to bioterrorism, which I had studied as a part of my job at DTRA.
After the Ebola epidemic was under control, I moved from the Department of Defense to
the State Department, working on Pakistani military issues. In the beginning of 2017, a
job covering similar issues opened up at the Defense Department, so I moved back to
the Pentagon and work there now.
Q. In what ways did AGS impact your goals, current profession, etc.? How did AGS prepare you to enter the "real world"?
A. AGS gave me an understanding of how the foreign policy community really works. You
can like the idea of foreign policy just by reading the newspaper, but not understand
what it’s life to spend your life working on it. AGS gives students an inside look at that
I joined AGS in 2008 as a member of its founding class. I’d taught at a high school
debate camp linked to Yale’s grand strategy program, and one day saw a grand
strategy class on ACES. It was a graduate-level political science class and I’d never
taken a political science class before, but I liked the idea of doing it because of my
earlier experience. As it turned out, the grand strategy class was full, but Dr. Feaver [the
AGS director] let me into his Foreign Policy & Elections class; the year after that, I took
the actual grand strategy class. I took the Foreign Policy & Elections class and joined
AGS at the same time as I took an econometrics class, and during that semester I had a
moment of clarity and realized, “Foreign policy is what I really want to do!”
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 deeply admire Dr. Feaver. His name commands a lot of respect in the defense world.
Just this year, my boss, a deputy assistant secretary, mentioned he’d recently been in a
great briefing from Dr. Feaver.
I also met a lot of incredible speakers through AGS. David Sanger sticks out to me as
one of them. At the time I met him, I had no idea he was such a respected reporter in
the national security world; like most of the other speakers, he was very down-to-earth.
Also, my two closest friends from AGS remain my very close friends in DC.
Q. Do you have advice or inspiration to offer current AGS students?
A. To some extent, it’s easier to take a job in a more structured field like banking or
consulting than one in foreign policy, because the pathway there is so clear through
recruiting avenues. But it’s worth it to take a risk on working in foreign policy if that’s
where your interests lie. It might be less clear-cut, but it’s extremely rewarding. And on a
personal note, I am always happy to give advice to AGS students—feel free to reach