‘Invest in yourself:’ Women In Defense event celebrates 2019 Horizons scholarship class

2019-20 Horizons Scholarship class is, front row from left: Jillian Joffe, Elizabeth Wright, Lauren Finkenthal, Priya Balasubramanian, Megan Ward, Allison Maddux; back row from left: Camille Bobiak, Amber Morgan, Schuyler Moore, Taylor Martin, Alexandra Bruer, Margarita Valkovskaya.

WASHINGTON – Stacey Dixon has been deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) for just more than 30 days, but it’s her years of experience that made for solid advice to the attendees of the Women in Defense Horizons Scholarship Celebration, a daylong event held Aug. 8 at the offices of Bloomberg Government in Washington.

Dixon was the keynote speaker of the event that honored 12 women from around the country who share in more than $126,000 for their academic pursuits as the Horizons Scholarship class of 2019-20.

Dixon’s lead message: “Invest in yourself and your network. Women need to support women and help each other. We need to see ourselves in the way others perceive us” and not give in to the so-called imposter syndrome that plagues working women of all ages.

Imposter syndrome is a pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud; women tend to wrestle with it much more often than men, according to several studies. Dixon cited a 2014 Hewlett-Packard report that found men will apply for a job feeling they meet 60 percent of the requirements, while women only apply when they feel they meet all of the requirements. 

“We may not see how our experiences qualify us,” Dixon said. “Challenge that. Look at the experiences you’ve had. Now is a good time.”

It’s a common challenge for women, Dixon said. “I want to get to the point that when I enter a room, I don’t have to look around the table for someone else who looks like me,” Dixon said.

“It’s an honor to invest in these amazing women in a way that truly makes a difference,” said Rachel McCaffrey, WID’s executive director, during a Wednesday reception for the awardees. “It’s a commitment to inclusion and diversity” by funding these women’s studies.

The Horizons awardees were chosen from among 30 applicants for the annual scholarships that help fund women studying for careers in defense and foreign policy. But the scholarship is more than just financial help, said Megan Ward, a PhD candidate at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. Ward won a Horizons award previously as a master’s degree candidate, and “the organization has been invaluable to me. I have stayed involved with it” during internships with defense contractors. 

Jillian Joffe, a graduate student in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, said in meeting other Horizons awardees as well industry and government professionals, she hopes to make connections who can help along the way in her career. An undergraduate of Auburn University, Joffe said she’d like to leverage her technical background for identifying and solving defense-related needs.

 “A measure of good leadership is the quality of those coming up behind you,” said Hawk Carlisle, president and chief executive officer of the National Defense Industrial Association, WID’s parent organization. “There is no doubt in my mind these women will exceed our expectations,” he said, adding he hoped their careers will find them working in national security.

The private sector may be more lucrative, Dixon said, noting it competes with the government salary scale, but “People come into the federal government for the mission and for keeping the country safe,” she said. The federal government is working to attract promising talent to its efforts; for instance, Dixon said, NGA has “ambassadors” who recruit new workers for the agency.

The Horizons Scholarship awardees are:

  • Priya Balasubramanian, Cornell University
  • Camille Bobiak, Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Alexandra Bruer, Harvard University
  • Lauren Finkenthal, Georgetown University
  • Jillian Joffe, Purdue University
  • Allison Maddux, Georgetown University
  • Taylor Martin, Georgetown University
  • Schuyler Moore, Georgetown University
  • Amber Morgan, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
  • Margarita Valkovskaya, Syracuse University 
  • Megan Ward, University of Washington
  • Elizabeth Wright, The George Washington University

The 2020-21 Horizons Scholarship class will open for applications in early 2020. For more information, visit WomenInDefense.net


About NDIA

The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) is America's leading defense industry association promoting national security. NDIA provides a legal and ethical forum for the exchange of information between industry and government on national security issues. NDIA and its members foster the development of the most innovative and superior equipment, training, and support for warfighters and first responders through its divisions, local chapters, affiliated associations, and events. For more information, visit NDIA.org

About WID

Women In Defense (WID), a National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Affiliate, engages, cultivates and advances women in all aspects of national security. Incorporated in 1985, Women In Defense provides members a business environment for professional growth through strategic networking, education, and career development. This national alliance is comprised of women and men from industry and defense organizations of every size; all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces; Government agencies, academia, think tanks, associations, and professional services.