Celeste Ward Gventer, a defense policy expert, has been named associate director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin.
Gventer, who will join the Strauss Center in November, has extensive U.S. Department of Defense and foreign policy experience. She is a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis.
Gventer’s appointment as associate director follows Ambassador Gregory W. Engle’s retirement to pursue a music career. Engle, a career diplomat and Foreign Service officer with international, management and policy experience, helped shape the Strauss Center’s operational capabilities and improve its research capacity. Engle has been named a Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar and will continue to participate in the center.
“Celeste brings an incredible depth of knowledge and policy experience to the Strauss Center,” said Francis J. Gavin, the Strauss Center’s director. “We are thrilled she is joining us, and we look forward to working with her to continue providing policy-relevant solutions to the biggest global challenges of today.”
Gventer was previously the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Stability Operations Capabilities in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, providing policy advice regarding effective stabilization and reconstruction and counterinsurgency operations. She also served two tours in Iraq with the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003-04 and as politico-military adviser to the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Commander for 2006. Gventer has also worked as a special assistant to the counselor of the State Department, a strategist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a defense analyst at the U.S. Congressional Budget Office.
“The Strauss Center is fast becoming a significant voice on international policy only a few short years after its founding,” said Gventer. “Its interdisciplinary approach, together with the world-class faculty and staff at The University of Texas, give it a unique capability. I am thrilled and honored to be joining such a distinguished and capable organization.”
Gventer is known for her knowledge of military and defense operations, on-the-ground practical considerations and broad understanding of policy and strategy.
“Celeste is one of the brightest talents in the new generation of America’s national security leaders,” said Philip D. Zelikow, the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia and former counselor to the Secretary of State. “Tempered by war zones and Washington, she is fluent in grand strategy, but she also knows well what happens when high concepts have to hit the ground running.”
“Celeste will bring to the Strauss Center her distinctive perspective that she has developed through diverse experiences with national security issues — on the ground in Iraq, across the interagency in Washington, D.C., and as a scholar and analyst,” said Drew Erdmann, a former State Department and National Security Council official. “She is thoughtful, provocative and willing to challenge received wisdom.”
Gventer received her master of public policy degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and her bachelor of arts degree in political science from Stanford University. She is the recipient of the Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal, the U.S. Army Superior Civilian Service Award and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.