Lectures Series on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats

This new lecture series complements Vanderbilt's annual Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats and its purpose to address pressing challenges by fostering dialogue and collaboration on some of the most complex national security topics.

Please contact modernconflict@vanderbilt.edu with any questions.

Ambassador Nathaniel Fick, Ambassador at Large, Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy

Ambassador Nathaniel Fick, Ambassador at Large, Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy

February 28, 2024

Nathaniel C. Fick was sworn in on September 21, 2022 as the inaugural U.S. Ambassador at Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy. Prior to joining the State Department, Ambassador Fick was a technology executive and entrepreneur.  He was CEO of the cybersecurity software company Endgame from 2012 through its acquisition by Elastic in 2019.  Thereafter, he led Elastic’s information security business globally.  Ambassador Fick spent nearly a decade as an operating partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, working with management teams to build technology businesses.  In 2018, he was named by Fast Company magazine as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” and Endgame was selected by Forbes as one of the “100 Best Cloud Companies in the World.” From 2009 to 2012, Ambassador Fick was CEO of the Center for a New American Security, a national security research organization in Washington.  Earlier in his career, he served as a Marine Corps infantry and reconnaissance officer, including combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.  His book about that experience, One Bullet Away, was a New York Times bestseller, a Washington Post “Best Book of the Year,” and one of the Military Times‘s “Best Military Books of the Decade.” Ambassador Fick graduated with high honors in Classics from Dartmouth College and holds an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

A Conversation with Ambassador Nathaniel Fick, February 28, 2024

General David H. Petraeus (US Army, Ret.)  Partner, KKR and Chairman of the KKR Global Institute

General David H. Petraeus (US Army, Ret.) Partner, KKR and Chairman of the KKR Global Institute

November 10, 2023

General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.) is one of the leading battlefield commanders and strategists of our time.  He served over 37 years in the US military culminating his career with six consecutive commands as a general officer, five of which were in combat, including command of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and NATO/US Forces in Afghanistan.  He subsequently served as Director of the CIA, following confirmation by the Senate by a vote of 94-0, during a period of significant achievements in the global war on terror.

General Petraeus is now a Partner with the global investment firm KKR and Chairman of the KKR Global Institute, which he established in 2013.  He also serves on corporate boards, is the Kissinger Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson School, and is the co-author, with Andrew Roberts, of Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine.

General Petraeus graduated with distinction from the US Military Academy, earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University, and has held academic appointments at 5 universities in addition to his current position at Yale.  He is also Co-Chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Global Advisory Council, Senior Vice President of the Royal United Services Institute, and a member of the Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, and Aspen Strategy Group. 

His awards include four Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Combat Action Badge, the Ranger tab, and master parachutist wings.  He has also been decorated by 14 foreign countries and is believed to be the only person in uniform to throw out the first pitch of a World Series game and do the coin toss for a Super Bowl.  He was runner-up to Vladimir Putin for Time Person of the Year in 2007, the Daily Telegraph Man of the Year, twice a Time 100 selectee, three times a Foreign Policy top public intellectual, Prospect magazine’s Public Intellectual of the Year, one of US News and World Report’s Top 25 Leaders, and sanctioned by Russia (in 2022).

Dr. Mark T. Esper, 27th Secretary of Defense

Dr. Mark T. Esper, 27th Secretary of Defense

September 26, 2023

Dr. Mark T. Esper became the United States’ 27th Secretary of Defense in July 2019 after being confirmed 90-8 by the U.S. Senate.  During his tenure, Dr. Esper led the department through unprecedented times: from conflict with Iran and an ongoing campaign in Afghanistan; to the greatest civil unrest in decades and a once-in-a-century global pandemic.  He implemented a new National Defense Strategy focused on China and Russia; prioritized international alliances and strengthening the military capability of the U.S. and its foreign partners; established the Space Force; took measures to improve the nation’s cyber capabilities; proposed a future force structure for the U.S. Navy; and launched novel warfighting and readiness concepts. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Esper took steps to protect the health and safety of DoD personnel and co-led Operation Warp Speed, the national effort to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines, and also led important initiatives to improve diversity and merit in the DoD. 

Prior to becoming Defense Secretary, Dr. Esper served as the 23d Secretary of the Army from November 2017 until June 2019.  In this capacity, he was responsible for over 1.5 million active, Guard, and reserve Soldiers and Army civilians and a $180 billion annual budget.  During his tenure, Esper launched a renaissance in how the Service organized, manned, trained, and equipped the force as it shifted its focus toward large-scale combat operations against China and Russia. He also established a new U.S. Army Futures Command designed to improve the Army’s acquisition of innovative technologies to field a modernized force. He also directed an overhaul of Army recruiting standards and processes while jumpstarting the development of a new Talent Management system for the Service while advancing important initiatives for Army spouses and families.  

Dr. Esper earned a BS from West Point, an MPA from Harvard University, and a PhD from George Washington University. He served as an infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division during the 1990-91 Gulf War, and later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe that was part of NATO readiness task force. Among his many military awards, he earned a Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Esper retired from the Army in 2007, after 10 years on active duty and 11 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve. 

After leaving active duty, Dr. Esper worked in senior national security positions across Capitol Hill, as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, in a presidential campaign, and with prominent think tanks, commissions, and business associations. He later served as a senior executive at the high-tech company Raytheon.  

Dr. Esper currently is a Partner and Board member in venture capital firm Red Cell Partners, while also serving on several private capital and public policy boards.  He is the author of the NYT bestselling memoir A Sacred Oath: Memoirs Of A Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times. 

A Conversation with Dr. Mark T. Esper, September 26, 2023