Stories from Our Community

Rose Gottemoeller, MA ’81, is passionate about science and government

Since graduating from GW, Rose Gottemoeller, MA ’81, has been changing the world—literally.

Rose is the Deputy Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a position she took up in October 2016. She is the first woman and second American to hold this title.

“I’m still getting my feet under the table, but it has been very gratifying,” says Rose of her first few weeks on the job at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. “Instead of a United States diplomat, I’m now an international civil servant. I’m not just representing my country alone, I’m representing 28 nations.”

NATO is the latest chapter in Rose’s international affairs career, which spans more than 35 years. She spent more than seven years at the U.S. State Department, where she served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Previously, she worked at the U.S. Department of Energy, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. From 1993 to 1994, she served on the National Security Council.

But Rose’s first job after completing her undergraduate degree was at the RAND Corporation, where she worked as a researcher. Around the same time, Rose enrolled in the Elliott School’s graduate program, pursuing a combined science, technology, and public policy degree.

“I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but I also wanted to make sure I could work at RAND,” Rose explains. “Attending GW gave me that flexibility. They were very helpful to those with a job trying to make their way in the world while still getting the skills they need.”

She says her GW degree supported a lifelong passion for science and government.

“I was interested in the Apollo Programs, physics, and aeronautics. We were in competition with the Soviets, and the first détente was launched in 1972 when I was an undergraduate. And I always had an interest in foreign policy,” Rose says. “So I liked that GW had a program that combined helping our government pursue better science policy and further science research.”

Rose delivered the 2010 Elliott School commencement address, and that same year received a GW Alumni Achievement Award. Throughout the years, she has also participated in many university events, like a 2012 nuclear policy talk at the Elliott School with Sergey Kislyak, ambassador of the Russian Federation to the U.S.

But she says her most memorable GW moments occurred in the classroom. She remembers a technology assessment class she took while pursuing her master’s degree.

“One night, the professor asked a question and I began my answer with, ‘I might not have the right idea, but…’.” Rose explains. “But then the professor said, ‘Don’t ever apologize. Just say what you want to say.’ That was an important life lesson for me, especially as a young woman.”