Women in National Security: Q&A with Masters graduate Elke Larsen

11 December 2017

Elke Larsen (image centre) is a founding member of the student-led organisation Women in Masters of Strategic Studies, which advocates for inclusivity and celebrates the contribution of women strategists at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre at ANU. We caught up with Elke prior to her graduation from the Master of Strategic Studies (Advanced) program this week.

When did you start at ANU, and why did you choose the Master of Strategic Studies program?

I started studying at ANU in February 2016. I chose the Master of Strategic Studies because I was interested in building my network in Canberra. I previously worked in the international security field at a US think tank, and was hoping to find an opportunity closer to home.

Are you from Canberra? How have you found your study experience here?

I am originally from Queensland and have lived in the US and UK. Some people have reservations about Canberra, however I have really enjoyed everything the city has to offer – from quirky festivals, to hiking, and the excellent array of restaurants!

Which academic had the biggest influence on your study experience?

My sub-thesis supervisor, Evelyn Goh, was a wonderful mentor who helped push the boundaries of my academic skills. She taught me the importance of a rigorous methodology, guiding me through a difficult project until I achieved a product that I was proud of. 

What skills did you learn in your program, and how will you put them into practice in your career?

My ability to think critically has gained a new depth. I have gained a strong ability to think about strategy and how it can be implemented, and I have gained a greater confidence in my problem-solving skills. All [these skills] have proven useful in my job as a consultant for the federal government at PwC.

What issues interest you? How do you hope to contribute to a solution to these issues using your experiences at ANU?

I care about improving the experience of women in the workplace. While at ANU, I was a founding member of a student-led organisation, Women in Masters of Strategic Studies, that advocated a more inclusive Masters program for women and minorities. I am hoping to continue this activism in my new workplace, especially through opportunities to mentor younger employees.

Do you have any advice for students in your program?

I have chosen against taking a traditional public-sector job upon leaving the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU, and this was the right decision for me! I would recommend that students in my program keep their minds open and explore an array of different opportunities in the national security and defence industries. You never know what may be the right fit!

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