Sam Rising

Name: Sam Rising Picture of Faculty/Staff Member
Alumni Of:
  • School of International Affairs
  • M.S. INTA 2019
Current Job: Consultant at Deloitte

Sam Rising graduated from the master’s program in International Affairs in 2019 with concentrations in nuclear strategy, nuclear proliferation, and energy security studies. He joined the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as an NNSA Nonproliferation Graduate Fellow after graduation. After completing his fellowship, Sam is now with Deloitte’s Government & Public Services as a consultant the Strategy and Analytics Practice.

What are the advantages of completing a Master’s of Science in International Affairs from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs?

When you think of the advantages of the school, I think it is important to view the Nunn School through the lens of the larger institute we are a part of and how it intersects with the existing and emerging issues facing our world. I think it’s also important to recognize first that the longstanding boundaries between science, technology, and international affairs are blurring. With that in mind, our distinction as a Master’s of Science degree (instead of a traditional MA) cannot be understated, and I think that distinction can be summarized in two main points.

First, as the international affairs program at one of the world’s finest technological universities, the MS program at the Nunn School uniquely positions its students in ways that other programs simply cannot – it helps students find their place as bridges at the confluence of science, technology, and international affairs. You learn how relate very complex mission sets facing the science and policy worlds.

Second, and equally important, I believe, you are exposed to and can cut your teeth on more technical, data-driven approaches to international affairs problem solving. In my experience in both public and private sector worlds, data-driven solutions are seizing the day. Here, you can inform policy-relevant studies with forward-leaning, data-driven solutions.

I think most students, as they begin to enter the workforce, will find that employers are seeking candidates with these skills – you will stand alone when compared to your peers who come from more traditional international affairs programs, and that is a very powerful thing for any student’s future growth.

Did you come in knowing you wanted to focus your coursework on nuclear strategy, nuclear proliferation, and energy security studies? If not, how did the Nunn School help you discover your interests?

I came to the Nunn School with an idea to loosely organize my coursework around national security. The breadbasket that is national security topics has always interested me – but I did not arrive with an immediate focus on security strategy, nuclear nonproliferation, and energy security. That did quickly change – students will find an amazing array of coursework here, and in my first semester as a graduate student, I discovered Dr. Whitlark’s course on the problems of nuclear proliferation. It was a fascinating course topic, especially when you take into account that, at the time, the United States was ratcheting up the pressure on North Korea regarding its nuclear weapons program. It was very serendipitous that way.

The class itself quickly peeked my interest, and I dove deep into the topic. Meeting with visiting scholars and practitioners from all elements of nuclear security (academia, military, policy) really helped to calcify my interest, as it showed me that nuclear security, and national security more broadly, was filled with a variety of meaningful careers paths. It was in that semester I was introduced to the NNSA Graduate Fellowship. After that semester, I was full steam ahead on anything related to nuclear security – and this included energy security, a class I took with Dr. Stulberg, who would become my boss that next semester, as well.

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning a very valuable lesson – that all of the topics discussed in these courses intersect in some way. We organize and separate them perhaps to better understand them, but in the end, all of these international affairs topics begin to engage with and relate to one another, something I think we all discover once we dive into the work world. When you learn that lesson, you can take much more away from each lesson than you otherwise might have, and it will serve you so well in the long run. Whether my career path remains entrenched in the nuclear security field, my Nunn School experience showed me how it relates to the broader network of national security concerns, and that is invaluable.

What has been your most memorable experience at GT?

I think the most memorable moment of the program so far has been the Sam Nunn Policy Forum, which occurred this past fall. This particular forum was focused on cybersecurity. I had just spent my summer break as a cybersecurity summer associate for a large consulting firm – I was helping energy firms come into compliance with the EU’s new data privacy law, GDPR. I invited my parents to this summit, and they were able to see first hand just how cool this world of international affairs can be. They were even able to sit down and eat lunch next to a former deputy director of the NSA and a former acting director of the CIA. To be able to break bread with these people – that was special for all of us. They came away from that experience totally enamored with the national security world I wanted to enter. It was very special to share my love of this field with them.

What did you like most about being a Nunn School student?

For all the strengths I have just mentioned, I liked the people most of all – and that should tell you just how special this community is for graduate students. First, it is impossible to put into words just how special the faculty and staff are here at the Nunn School. These people mentored and championed me. Whatever success I may find after school, I owe an incalculably large chunk of that success to them. And for future graduate students, they will do the same for you – so seek them out!! Second, I really enjoy the other students. These students will both humble you with their talent – Georgia Tech is filled with the smartest people I have ever encountered. But this place is really special in that the power of this place will embolden you. More importantly, I found friends here. This work isn’t competition, it’s collaborative. In graduate school, you can be swept up by the pressure to build your career. But this is a very supportive and welcoming community of students. You can study together, build each other up, challenge each other, and we can also laugh together and enjoy each other’s company.