Bridging the Gap Between Science and Policy
Craig Wiener prefers a rough road to a smooth path. No stranger to hurdles, he has vaulted over more than his fair share to become the decorated nuclear scholar and practitioner he is today. How did he do it? Dedication, determination, and plenty of time on the road.
“It was a lot of work,” Craig says of his journey from master’s student to PhD candidate at George Mason’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs (SPGIA). “I was living in Winchester and would commute to both the Prince William and Fairfax campuses, driving anywhere from 300 to 500 miles a week for school, sometimes literally after a full day of work.”
Focused and undeterred, Craig is now finalizing his PhD in Biodefense with specializations in National Security Technology Policy, International Security, and Counter-proliferation. He has two credits left and is halfway through his dissertation with the hope of finishing up in April. In the meantime, he holds a position at the Department of Energy and is also working as a graduate teaching assistant and lecturer for security and intelligence matters for General Michael Hayden, an SPGIA Distinguished Visiting Professor and retired U.S. Air Force four-star general for the last four years.
“I enjoy it, though it’s pretty rigorous,” says Craig, who takes his loaded schedule all in stride. “I’m pretty driven. I’ve been going to school for the last seven years for a master’s and PhD and working to pay my way through school.”
Craig’s journey to Mason was born out of a desire to study anew following law school and a 13-year hiatus from the classroom … and a little serendipity.
“I wanted a new career challenge – specifically, I wanted to do something meaningful,” he says, “so I decided to go back to school for the two things I was most passionate about: advanced science and technology and national security. Lo and behold, GMU had a world class program – the only biodefense and international security program of its kind in the world for PhDs – and it was pretty close to where I live.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Craig’s contributions to the national security community have been highly praised, and he is presently a decorated professional who can boast some weighty achievements: In January 2013, he was selected by the Center For Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for its Nuclear Scholars Initiative program. In November 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Sidney D. Drell Academic Award from the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA). Craig credits his time at SPGIA.
“Mason has provided me the depth and breadth of knowledge that I needed to converse with senior policymakers, technologists, and scientists,” he says. “It bridged the gap between science and policy so I could be respected in both worlds because I knew what I was talking about.”
Craig further reveres his Mason Patriot days as a challenge that has tested his limits but one that also has given him lasting connections.
“It has been great,” he says of his PhD journey. “The faculty is top-notch and demand a lot from you. But perhaps more importantly, Mason has also given me lifelong friends, it’s where I met my wife and many of my mentors, and where I’ve received practical teaching experience – one of the greatest experiences of my life.”