Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Student Spotlight: Bryan Brown MPA ’20

Bryan Brown joined the U.S. Army in 2009 and currently serves as an active duty Special Forces Officer. He has deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry platoon leader and as an executive officer, and to Syria as a Detachment Commander working on counterinsurgency operations. 

Policy interests: National security, defense

Hometown: Lindenhurst (Long Island), New York

Why did you choose Brown for your MPA?

Aside from it being a premier school, I chose Brown because the program had the right balance of international and domestic content, and its major emphasis on an empirical approach to public policy. I came to learn how to analyze national policies and develop strategies and long-range plans, and I haven’t been disappointed. The one-year format also fits perfectly with my career schedule.

You are on track to become a strategist for the Army when you've completed your MPA. What will you be doing as a strategist and what have you learned so far that will serve you in that role?

I’ve had the opportunity to study topics ranging from China’s Belt and Road Initiative and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to pandemics and water wars around the world; all of which have major implications for our national security. Exposure to this vast breadth of topics will help me anticipate second and third order effects of defense strategies I develop in the future. The leadership development course here has also provided valuable insights through a unique method of instruction consisting of group dynamics and self reflection.

What are you hoping your career will look like in five years? 

I plan to stay in the Army for at least another decade, and I’d like to remain in the Special Operations community. Our national security strategy has shifted in recent years towards near peer threats – think China and Russia – and our Special Operations elements are balancing these changes with their global presence while still impacting and shaping strategic regions of the world. I find the ambiguous and complex nature of these challenges exciting, and I hope to play a major role in shaping our global force posture.  

You participated in the Global Policy Experience in Berlin. What was a highlight of the experience for you? 

The highlight of the trip was our visit to the Bundestag [German parliament] where we learned about the German political structure. Specifically, their six different political parties with representation in parliament. Of note was the fact that their center-right and center-left political parties formed a “grand coalition” to identify common ground and layout policies they planned to pursue together over the next four years. This coalition prevents actors from the far-left and far-right from interfering with progress despite the many differences between these groups.

What has surprised you about Brown? 

The accomplishments and expertise of the faculty members have thoroughly impressed me. The insights they bring go well beyond what I expected. They have used – often at high levels – the skills they are teaching. They are also always happy to discuss topics in more depth outside the classroom. The faculty have added tremendous value to my experience here so far.