What to Do After You’ve Been NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander: Dean Stavridis Reflects on Time.com


Dean Stavridis The Fletcher School
Recently, I made a huge job and life transition: after more than 35 years in the U.S. military, and the last four as the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, I needed new challenges. This is, of course, a situation familiar to many — especially in today’s highly mobile job universe, when an average college graduate will have perhaps a dozen significant jobs and possibly four or more separate careers.

As I tried to work through what to do next, there were many options. I was offered positions in international consulting, global risk assessment firms, domestic business ventures, board positions and even additional jobs in government. To sort through it, I tried to think of what I had enjoyed so much about my time in the U.S. Navy. After all, something had kept me happily going for more than three decades. I realized that I liked many things about the Navy: going to sea as a mariner, traveling around the world, working with brave volunteers in combat and on diplomatic missions, and the educational benefits, to name a few. But what I truly loved about the Navy was the challenge of leading and mentoring young people, helping guide the trajectory of their lives in a positive direction. “Sounds like education,” said one mentor, herself a university president. And so I set about finding the right kind of job in the world of education.

I knew that I have a deep passion for the international sphere, and a real love for the place I had earned my own graduate degree, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Luckily, the incumbent dean was retiring at a time that made it possible for me to move directly from my position at NATO, which Dwight Eisenhower had held, to a nice campus in Medford, Mass. I went from an organization representing half of the world’s GDP and 3 million men and women in uniform to one with 700 graduate students and 150 faculty and administrators. It was a startling shift.

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