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Libertini Advises on Policy in DoD Fellowship

Libertini award

Jessica Libertini is promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia by Brig. Gen. Jeffrey G. Smith Jr. ’79 at the Pentagon. Photo courtesy of Libertini.

For Lt. Col. Jessica Libertini, Ph.D., a yearlong fellowship in the U.S. Department of Defense pushed her beyond her comfort zone and expanded her connection to commissioning cadets.

In September 2017, Libertini, associate professor of applied mathematics, started a science and technology policy fellowship through the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science. The nonprofit places between 200 to 300 scientists and engineers in the three branches of government. Her position as an executive branch fellow allowed her to work with international policy makers in cooperation with other nations.

“I wanted to do something different, and I wanted to challenge myself,” she said.As a country desk officer, Libertini managed a portfolio of seven to eight countries. She said she met regularly with embassy staff in Washington, D.C., and collaborated with service members from the Navy and Army. Libertini said her previous experience was on technical aspects of an issue, working with other mathematicians and scientists, but this was the first time working on the policy side.

“I had always been on the technical side, always in the office with other analysts. To give that insight to decision makers, this was different. I was being asked about a lot of policy decisions,” she said.

She traveled with Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord to Singapore for primary bilateral discussions, as well as to Jakarta, to work on extending cooperation with Indonesia. Libertini also provided support to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis concerning international cooperation.

Her work with the fellowship will fold into the new “Math That Matters” curriculum at VMI, working to make the implementation of the curriculum more realistic and align the writing style more with what the Pentagon uses, since “Math That Matters” involves communication of one’s ideas.

“I was always knowledgeable about what type of technical positions are available for [commissioning cadets], but not as knowledgeable what other people could do. I can talk with cadets in my courses – international studies majors, history majors – and give them ideas for foreign area officer jobs,” she said.

Her connection to VMI was shown when retired Brig. Gen. Jeffrey G. Smith Jr. ’79 attended her promotion ceremony at the Pentagon.

  • Ashlie Walter VMI Communications & Marketing