Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, visited the Duderstadt Center Tuesday as part of a recruiting event for the National Security Enterprises. Approximately 30 students and researchers attended.
Gordon-Hagerty attended the University of Michigan for undergraduate and graduate school, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1983 and a master’s in health physics from the School of Public Health in 1986. She has previously served as a staff member for the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce and as acting director in the Office of Emergency Response and the Office of Weapons Surety.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed her to be director of the White House Office of Combating Terrorism, which is under the National Security Council. After serving a few years in the private sector, Gordon-Hagerty returned to the public sector, accepting her current position with the NNSA.
In an interview with The Daily last week, Gordon-Hagerty said her time at the University is the source of her expertise, more so than any of her professional roles.
“Obviously, the foundation of my career in math and science and in national security and in the technical expertise that I hold is a function directly of my time at the University of Michigan and my college education,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “There’s no doubt in my mind the expertise … that I’ve obtained over the last 30 years or so in my career is a direct result of my schooling and education at Michigan.”
Gordon-Hagerty spoke during the event about the recruiting push for the NNSA, as 40 percent of the NNSA’s workforce is on a path for retirement. She said the administration is looking to develop a diverse and robust future workforce.
“I want to do whatever I can do to continue to engage with, and call from, the wonderful, brilliant brainpower that is obtained by attending the University of Michigan and these other colleges and universities across the United States,” Gordon-Hagerty said.
After Gordon-Hagerty spoke, a six-person panel shared their roles in various laboratories and companies under the NNSA, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Erik Timpson, an engineer at Kansas City National Security Campus, emphasized working for the public sector means serving the country while having the resources to turn “some of the things in your imagination into reality.”
“It sounds super fancy to be working with doctors on cutting-edge national research that’s changing the way that we look at security and how secure we are,” Timpson said. “You guys are like, ‘Man, I’m just fresh out of calculus and physics. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet.’ The simple answer is: You are. You’re totally ready. You can do this.”
Gordon-Hagerty advised current undergraduates to recognize the importance of national security, to be flexible with career plans as opportunities arise and to not rule out any possibilities early on.
“The advice I would give to current and future applicants to our nuclear security enterprises is keeping an open mind and to know their career will grow in the future,” Gordon-Hagerty said.
Rackham student Jeff Woolstrum, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, said he was fascinated by the University’s relevance in national security.
“It was great that (U-M) has the kind of pull to bring in these high-level people,” Woolstrum said. “There were a lot of good questions and a lot of good answers that were asked and a lot of good resources that are just so conveniently available to everybody here at Michigan.”
Claire Hao contributed reporting to this article.