In the spring of 2011, Jan Havránek (MALD ’09) had been working as a foreign policy advisor to the Czech Republic’s defense minister for more than a year when he learned NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe was coming to Prague for a public lecture and meetings.
The officer was named James Stavridis, a U.S. Navy admiral who also commanded all U.S. forces in Europe, and a dual-degree graduate of The Fletcher School.
“The first time I was introduced to Admiral Stavridis, we connected immediately,” Havránek said, describing the palpability of the Fletcher connection. “He was among a group of dignitaries and we were just meeting him. The moment he heard the word ‘Fletcher’ that’s when I realized what it means to be part of this great network.” That year Stavridis invited Jan to join his group of young professional advisors called the Next Generation Advisory Panel.
Stavridis, of course, retired from the navy earlier this year, and continued in his distinguished professional climb to become Fletcher’s new dean, where his ties to the School are only further solidified. Since their meeting, Havránek has continued his own remarkable career trajectory, now serving as assistant first deputy defense minister, and director of the Defense Policy and Strategy Division of the Czech Republic’s Defense Ministry. This summer, he was named to Diplomatic Courier's annual list of the "Top 99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders" for 2013.
“Fletcher always impacts you at some point in your career, and I think it is a continuing sort of connection,” he said. “Even though I’ve only been out of school five years, I’ve benefited so much from the Fletcher network.”
A native of a small town named Tabor, Havránek graduated from the Department of Social Science at Prague’s Charles University, and spent three years working as program coordinator for a think-tank called the Prague Security Studies Institute. By 2006, he was considering getting a graduate degree in security studies, and his employer had deep ties with the U.S. foreign policy establishment. As it happened, Robert Pfaltzgraff, the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of International Security Studies at Fletcher, was on the board of the Prague Institute and encouraged Havránek to come to Medford for his master’s degree.
In 2007, he enrolled at Fletcher, bringing a strong focus on U.S.-European relations and NATO security issues. “I thought I would try something else,” Havranek said about choosing his area of study at the School. “I think that is very typical for a lot of Fletcher students, to try to expand their portfolio and background.”
Havránek focused on security studies, but also terrorism and the business aspects of terrorism, working intensively with security studies professors William Martel and Richard Shultz, as well as Phil Uhlman, professor of international business, Ian Johnstone, academic dean and professor of international law, and Alan Henrikson, Lee E. Dirks Professor of Diplomatic History. His thesis focused on the impact of terrorist attacks on energy infrastructure. It was a subject that ended up dovetailing with a parallel policy discussion in the EU and NATO in 2009 about the security of energy networks–in particular the dependence of the EU on Russia for gas imports.
“I’m very grateful I was able to experiment with these subjects, but at the end of day, I came back to my work in traditional business, which for me is at NATO these days,” he said.
After graduating with his MALD in 2009, Havránek returned to Prague to work as foreign policy advisory for a Czech senator who a year later rose to become defense minister and brought Jan on his team. In 2011, Havránek shifted from the cabinet-level position to the policy side of the Czech defense ministry, where he was initially deputy director of the ministry’s Defense Policy and Strategy Division, then rising in April to his current job as director of the division. His simultaneous title as assistant first deputy defense minister is the rough equivalent to the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense.
Havránek oversees a department of 60 people with a budget of several million USD. Much of his work involves coordinating Czech Republic relations with NATO and bilateral relations with any country with whom Prague has a defense diplomatic relationship. The division also deals with strategic defense planning and crisis management, contributes to the agenda of the Czech National Security Council and interacts with the Czech armed forces leadership.
Havránek offers this counsel to Fletcher students:
“Follow your instincts. That may be a clichéd sentence, but I would say you can’t go wrong with anything that you do at Fletcher,” he said. “While it may not really fit what you see as your portfolio or what you want to do in your career, it will pan out sooner or later.”
Also, he added that students shouldn’t be anxious about choosing the right classes.
“What matters most is that you’re part of this great program,” Havránek said, “and you can reach out to people all around the world.”
--Mike Eckel (F13)