Dr. Yvonne Masakowski (ΦΒΚ, Rutgers University) has a distinguished career in Psychology and Human Factors spanning over 25 years. She was recently appointed as a Research Fellow by the U.S. Naval War College following her retirement as an Associate Professor of Strategic Leadership and Leader Development in the College of Leadership and Ethics. She currently serves as the U.S. Chair of NATO's Leader Development for Multinational Military Operations, and is the recipient of numerous awards.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
Perception and Psychophysics taught by Dr. Marilyn Shaw at Rutgers University.
You’re currently a Research Fellow at the Naval War College, having recently retired from the college following 25 years of government service. What does your current role entail? What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I enjoy working with my students and working with international teams of scientists to make a difference on a global scale. This includes teaching and mentoring military graduate students on artificial intelligence and its role in maintaining global security, as well as topics such as ethics and emerging military technologies. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) just appointed me as US Co-Chair for a research team on the NATO COVID-19 response and future pandemics.
You also developed the first Humanities course ever taught at the Naval War College during your time as a professor in the College of Leadership and Ethics. Why did you feel developing this course was important? How was it received by students?
This course is vital for developing military leaders. The Humanities open the aperture for all those who wish to become leaders, regardless of domain (e.g. military, medicine, business, and/or academia). Humanities disciplines provide a lens through which we can view events throughout history that helped shape our thinking and decision making. In my class, learning was experiential. Each week students would examine a war era through the lenses of art, music and literature of the time in order to understand the societal context for leadership in each period. Visits to museums afforded them an opportunity to decipher and understand an artist’s message of that historical period. Students wrote a weekly perspective paper based on the lecture and class readings for each war era. Their final assignment was to write an original poem based on their life’s experiences. Students often began writing their poem at the beginning of the semester as they had never written a poem before in their lives. Each student was required to read their poem aloud to their classmates during the final class, an event that often resulted in tears from their classmates. It was a beautiful, healing experience for military leaders who had never had the opportunity to share before. That is why many students suggested I rename the class to “ Healing Through the Humanities.”
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
It is critical to understand the process of perception for that is a unique experience that shapes our thinking and decision making. My mentor, Dr Marilyn Shaw at Rutgers University shared this with me, and it has helped shape my thinking and understanding of people around the world. Reality shaped by perception!
Do you have any upcoming projects or books that you’re excited about?
I have a new book that was just released in July 2020: Artificial Intelligence and Global Security: Future Trends, Threats and Considerations
, Emerald Publishing, UK. In addition, I am engaged in several important research efforts to help shape future NATO strategies and plans for managing critical global events such as the current pandemic. The results of these research efforts will serve as the foundation for developing coordinated efforts among allied nations to help global security.
Do you think Phi Beta Kappa and a well-rounded, liberal arts and sciences education are important in today's society?
Today, more than ever, we need to expand each leader’s understanding of the human experience. Leaders must learn to appreciate the unique values brought to bear through each person’s cultural, historical, educational and personal experiences that are played out in society, politics and especially in warfare. The Humanities open our eyes and our hearts to the common experience of people throughout history. These perspectives are essential for everyone and certainly critical for those who wish to become leaders.