Norwich University, with its nearly 200-year legacy of producing high order military thinkers, was an intuitive choice when researching graduate-level educational opportunities. Though my military education and experience provided abilities in solving what we refer to as “tactical” or “well-structured” problems, I realized there existed gaps in my knowledge of strategic problem sets. Fortunately for Army Officers, there exists a well codified and institutionalized educational structure to provide that knowledge, namely the Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and the Army War College, at Carlisle Barracks, PA. Unfortunately, as an Army Warrant Officer, it is highly improbable (though not impossible) that I would ever attend these institutions. My only recourse was an experiential learning program that would provide at least a similar if not superior educational experience.
"Within only a few minutes of scrutinizing the program description for Norwich’s Master of Arts in International Relations program, I realized I had found the solution."
The first challenge was to identify the correct academic discipline and program of study. Once I realized that a graduate degree in international relations would provide the best mix of practical strategic knowledge with a focus on foreign policy, yet also address aspects of national security, it led inextricably to Norwich’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS). Within only a few minutes of scrutinizing the program description for Norwich’s Master of Arts in International Relations program (with a concentration in National Security), I realized I had found the solution.
As stated previously, Norwich is well known, but within the U.S. Army, it is regarded for producing Officers who are typically the “deep thinkers” of any organization. Norwich graduates possess knowledge of national security issues around the globe and are relied upon heavily by Commanders to provide a strategic context for any given mission. As these were skills that I too desired, it only validated the decision to choose Norwich University over other institutions. However, there also existed an intangible but equally important factor for consideration; specifically, the University’s prestige and history as a Senior Military College. As a Warrant Officer—whose career path to commissioning begins as an appointment out of enlisted ranks—the romanticism of being able to identify as a Norwich graduate was very appealing. Consequently, my graduation ring bearing the seal of Norwich University, emblazoned with the founding year of 1819, is proudly worn. I always enjoy the conversations that inevitably occur at social gatherings when my regular Officer “peers” inquire as to how I earned something so distinctive.
"No doubt, my best memories will come from participating in the 6th Annual Leadership Summit, for which it was my high honor to be selected. Working with civilians, law enforcement professionals, senior Army Officers, and prior-enlisted service members was the highlight of Residency."
The greatest takeaway from what is commonly referred to as the “Norwich Experience” is my renewed sense of confidence and pride in achieving excellence. In the interactions between fellow students, faculty, and staff at the 2018 Residency Conference, I observed firsthand a shared appreciation of excellence. It is difficult for me to convey just how invigorating it was to engage with quality individuals who valued thought, opinion, and experience without the filter or preconception of rank or position. At Norwich, whether attending remotely or visiting campus, all were treated fairly and without prejudice from these preconceptions which so often cripple intellectual discourse. No doubt, my best memories will come from participating in the 6th Annual Leadership Summit, for which it was my high honor to be selected. Working with civilians, law enforcement professionals, senior Army Officers, and prior-enlisted service members was the highlight of Residency. It was a tremendous example of bringing together a group of diverse people from different backgrounds, experiences, and most importantly thought, for the purpose of applying their individual skills and talents to a larger problem-solving exercise. The experience was highly rewarding and provided a renewed appreciation for what I could offer beyond the military.
The future is very exciting. With over 22 years in service, I am very much looking forward to what comes after retirement from active duty. As a post-graduate student from Norwich University, I have the bona fides to apply my skills in a practical field of work or perhaps move on to a Doctoral Program for an eventual career in academia. Regardless of what comes next, I do know it is nice to have options. Truly the freedom to choose what path to take with one’s own life is the purest form of liberty that exists, something Norwich values dearly. Thank you faculty, staff, and fellow students for teaching not only the knowledge I knew I desired but also the knowledge I did not know I desired. Norwich Forever!
-Jesse Crifasi, M'18
Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3) Jesse R. Crifasi is an active duty Warrant Officer of the United States Army. He is currently serving as the Field Artillery Intelligence Officer for the renowned 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. In addition to his Master of Arts in International Relations from Norwich University, he has also earned distinction as a Sigma Iota Rho Honor Society inductee and is a member of SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society. Additionally, he holds a Bachelor Of Science in Professional Studies with a minor in Intelligence Studies from Fayetteville State University. He has been married to his wife Rebecca for 20 years and has three daughters, Savannah, Laura-Lee, and Caroline. His son, Zachary is a second year Army ROTC Cadet at Xavier University, whom he will never address as “sir” if and when he commissions as a Second Lieutenant, but is immensely proud of him nonetheless.
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