School of Diplomacy and International Relations

Col. Flynn Speaks to National Security Fellowship Team on Career Advice and U.S. Foreign & Security Policy  

Col. Flynn speaks with NSF students.

Col. Flynn speaks with NSF students.

On Tuesday, February 28th, graduate students with the National Security Fellowship (NSF) Research Team were given the opportunity to speak with Col. John Flynn, Vice President of Administration at MGM Resorts International and a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve. Prior to this position, Col. Flynn was the Chief of Staff to the Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, served as a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, Senior Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, Department of Defense Legislative Fellow to Senator Bill Nelson, and has been an active-duty Airman and Air Force reservist for 16 years. Col. Flynn and the students discussed U.S. foreign policy, issues in international relations, his time on Capitol Hill with then Vice President Biden, his current work in the private sector, and career guidance.

Col. Flynn attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, and as he was walking out of pilot training, he watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on September 11th. He described to the NSF team how immediately after 9/11, the U.S. military's mission changed overnight to address the threat of international terrorism. As an Airman, Col. Flynn flew countless missions for the U.S. during its operation in Afghanistan. Because of the landlocked position and lack of infrastructure in Afghanistan, the U.S. relied on the Central Asian states (CAS) to provide access and support. Col. Flynn discussed his experience in the CAS, providing insight into the on-the-ground experience, which helped inform the student’s paper. After 10 years of active missions, Col. Flynn changed roles from implementing policy to creating it. After a year stint at the Pentagon, he was awarded a Legislative Fellowship working in the office of Senator Bill Nelson. Senator Nelson served on the Armed Forces Committee and as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. Col. Flynn reflected on how participating in policy-making with other staffers offered a different but comparable experience to his time in the military. 

Col. Flynn eventually became a military aid for then Vice President Joe Biden. This led to Col. Flynn becoming former Vice President Biden’s traveling Chief of Staff, which gave him further policy making insights and experiences. Col. Flynn discussed about how because of these experiences, he learned how to maintain professional and personal relationships that enabled him to find subject matter experts on a wide range of topics. 

Through his variety of professional experience, Col. Flynn shared with the NSF team some tips for success that pertain to both the public and private sector: Establish meaningful connections, be aware that everyone has some sort of expertise to offer, and figure out a point of agreement during your negotiations. Afterwards, NSF students asked various questions ranging from how to maintain a career in national security, how to deal with burnout during one’s career, and what it was like for Col. Flynn to transition from the public sector into private. 

Team co-lead Alli Risewick particularly enjoyed the way that Col. Flynn was able to find ways that the public sector helped him achieve success in the private sector. Risewick states, "I enjoyed the way that Col. Flynn provided us with the similarities that he has encountered in both sectors because oftentimes, people assume that they are unrelated. As Col. Flynn pointed out, one of the biggest takeaways when working with different people is to be considerate of others and pay attention to the small details about everyone you work with, as this helps you find some common ground when negotiating with them." 

Christina Grossen, team co-lead, "appreciated Col. Flynn’s career advice on how to address burnout. Col. Flynn discussed the importance of figuring out what works for you and never being afraid to seek help when necessary. As the world is becoming more conscientious about mental health's role in the workplace, it was helpful to see what that balance can look like."  

The National Security Fellowship Research Team is currently conducting a research project for US Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) on how the U.S. can utilize aspects of the U.S.'s relationship with its partners in Central Asia through an economic and cultural lens. The National Security Fellowship Research Team is made up of first- and second-year graduate students from Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Currently in its sixth year, students are guided by Mohamad Mirghahari, a Seton Hall alumnus, Department of Defense advisor, and former Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Students utilize academic knowledge to provide solutions and make recommendations on pressing policy issues in foreign policy. The NSF team would like to thank Col. Flynn for his time, advice, and expertise that he shared with the students. 

Categories: Education, Nation and World

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