The role that nuclear weapons play in international security has changed since the end of the Cold War, but the need to maintain the human infrastructure for supporting nuclear capabilities and dealing with the multitude of nuclear challenges remains the same. For a number of reasons, including the diminished emphasis on nuclear weapons post-Cold War, expertise on nuclear issues – particularly within young generations – has declined. Unless the nuclear community makes a concerted effort to engage young talent now, cultivating the expertise critical to meeting the nuclear challenges of the future will become increasingly difficult. The 21st century’s complex geopolitical and budgetary environment demands a solid foundation of high-quality human capital across the nuclear enterprise. For this reason, in 2003, CSIS launched the Project on Nuclear Issues – to develop the next generation of policy, technical and operational nuclear professionals through outreach, mentorship, research and debate.
For the upcoming year, PONI has set four priorities for engaging the next generation:
- Promote 21st-Century Research for 21st-Century Scholars
- Engage the Full Next Generation Pipeline
- Build a Big Tent by Convening and Promoting New and Diverse Voices
- Demand and Provide Excellence
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Meet the Team
Rebecca Hersman is the director of the Project on Nuclear Issues and senior adviser for the International Security Program. Ms. Hersman joined CSIS in April 2015 from the Department of Defense (DOD), where she served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction (WMD) since 2009. In this capacity, she led DOD policy and strategy to prevent WMD proliferation and use, reduce and eliminate WMD risks and respond to WMD dangers. Ms. Hersman was a key leader on issues ranging from the nuclear security summit to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons to the global health security agenda. She served as DOD’s principal policy advocate on issues pertaining to the Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Prior to joining DOD, Ms. Hersman was a senior research fellow with the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Defense University from 1998 to 2009. Her primary projects focused on the role of DOD in mitigating the effects of chemical and biological weapons attack, concepts and strategies for eliminating an adversary’s WMD programs, as well as proliferation issues facing the United States. Ms. Hersman also founded and directed the WMD Center’s Program for Emerging Leaders, an initiative designed to shape and support the next generation of leaders from across the U.S. government with interest in countering weapons of mass destruction. Ms. Hersman previously held positions as an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for policy, and a member of the House Armed Services Committee professional staff. She holds an M.A. in Arab studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Duke University.
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Sarah Minot Asrar
Sarah Minot Asrar is the associate director for the Project on Nuclear Issues at CSIS. She is responsible for leading PONI’s programs and initiatives to develop the next generation of nuclear experts. She manages the Nuclear Scholars Initiative and serves as the lead editor for PONI’s annual journal. Her research focuses on crisis response and management, the intersection of global health and security in areas of conflict and crisis, and international institutions and norms. Prior to joining CSIS, she held positions at the Council on Foreign Relations with the Center for Preventive Action, Alliance for Peacebuilding, and Georgetown University as a research assistant. She holds an M.A. in conflict resolution from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in political science and international relations from the College of Wooster.
Program Manager and Research Associate
Simone Williams is a program manager and research associate with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where she manages the PONI conference series, outreach, and the chemical weapons research project. She has also worked with the Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative at CSIS where she coordinated the planning for the first Future Strategy Forum. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and expects to receive her master’s degree in international affairs from American University in 2019.
Program Coordinator and Research Assistant
Bernadette Stadler is a program coordinator and research assistant with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at CSIS. Prior to joining CSIS, she worked at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation as a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow. Her work on nuclear issues has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Defense One, and Politico. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University.
Program Coordinator and Research Assistant
Suzanne Claeys is a program coordinator and research assistant for the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where she manages the Trilateral Track II Nuclear Dialogues and assists with outreach and the PONI conference series. She holds a B.A. in international studies and Spanish studies from American University.
Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow
Lizamaria Arias is a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow for the Project on Nuclear Issues. Her work at PONI focuses on a project exploring how emerging technologies that enhance or degrade situational awareness impact strategic stability as well as one examining how existing institutions can better function to uphold accountability for chemical weapon use. Arias earned her BA in International Relations and Political Science from Wellesley College in 2017.
Arias studied Mandarin for two years at Wellesley, and in 2015, she was awarded a scholarship by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education to participate in an intensive language course at National Cheng Kung University. Awarded a Fulbright ETA grant her senior year, she spent the past year teaching English in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. She also lectured at Pingtung University, sharing her thoughts on the future of security and the role of programs like the Fulbright fellowship in promoting a more peaceful foreign policy. She speaks Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.
The Next Generation Nuclear Network is a product of the Andreas C. Dracopoulos iDeas Lab, the in-house digital, multimedia, and design agency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.