UNC-IDB SSFP Graduate’s Point of View

CPT Fischer Presenting SSFP Capstone Project

“The “takeaways” we each have now are not the end state for this course – those takeaways are seeds planted that will continue to cultivate as we go forward in our careers. This course will continue to resonate with each of us throughout the rest of our time in the Army.” –Captain Candace Fisher, USA

Meet U.S. Army Captain Candace Fisher, Company Commander, E Company, 795th Military Police Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Management from the United States Military Academy and a Master of Arts in Business and Organizational Security Management from Webster University.

On June 20, 2012 CPT Fisher graduated from the inaugural class of the UNC-IDB Strategic Studies Fellows Program (SSFP) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC. Created at the request of the U.S. Army, the five-week course teaches high-potential senior captains to look at national security issues from a more strategic level.

CPT Fisher received a joint certificate from the IDB and UNC and three graduate-level academic credit hours from the Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

In her free time, CPT Fisher enjoys spending time with her husband, CPT Ari Fisher and their two “furry” children (dogs), baking, and riding her motorcycle.

During the rigorous schedule, IDB caught up with CPT Fisher for an interview about the UNC-IDB SSFP.


IDB: How has the UNC-IDB SSFP program impacted you both professionally and personally? Has the program broadened you?

CPT Fisher: The UNC-IDB SSFP has really broadened my horizons both personally and professionally. It piqued my interest in topics with which I was unfamiliar and fostered new interests through exposure to new information, ways of thinking, and opinions. Everyone comes here with different strengths and weaknesses and the program shores it up by forcing you out of your comfort zone to look at problems from a strategic level, learn about the unfamiliar, take a stance, and defend it on a daily basis. I believe this course has absolutely made me a better thinker and a better communicator – both skills which senior leaders must be able to do well.

IDB: Given the challenges facing the military, do you think the program has prepared you to engage and solve strategic and operational problems in your career?

CPT Fisher: Given the challenges facing the military, I believe UNC-IDB SSFP could not be more timely. As I prepare to become a field grade officer in the next year, my assignments will begin to shift to more operational staffs (and maybe even strategic assignments). In this program, I have learned some non-Army problem solving methodologies and have changed the lens with which I analyze problems. As officers, we spend most of our careers on staff getting paid to use our brains to solve problems, to plan, and to make recommendations – which greatly affect the troops on the ground at the tactical level, and may have strategic implications at the national level. Given the challenges on the horizon, “outside the box” thinking will ultimately help craft and develop feasible, creative solutions. I believe I will conduct better analysis and make better recommendations as a result of this course.

IDB: What was the single biggest lesson-learned or “a-ha!” moment that you experienced in this program?

CPT Fisher: I experienced a lot of “ah-ha!” moments that were revolutionary for me during this program – probably at least one a day. However, I think they all generally fall into one overarching theme or category. Nothing is as simple as it seems, especially with respect to national policy and strategy. As junior leaders, we are heavily involved in the execution or implementation of decisions made at the strategic and national levels and many times the “why” fails to trickle down, making it easy for us to look at events through a very narrow lens and over-simplify the problem. When you take a step back to see the bigger picture – the stakeholders, the input of advisors, the importance of strategic communications and messages, domestic and international law, cost-benefit analysis and risk mitigation, the way our government works and why – you see that every action or inaction has consequences or implications that affect other elements. Leaders, civilian and military, have to make the best decisions, usually difficult ones often with lasting effects, with the information at hand.

IDB: What part of the UNC-IDB SSFP did you enjoy the most and found to be the most beneficial?

CPT Fisher: The part of the program that I enjoyed the most and found most beneficial was to be surrounded by some of the best fellow junior officers the Army has to offer. It was truly rewarding to be able to learn from the student body’s vast wealth of experience and knowledge, engage in scholarly discussion, establish connections outside my own branch, and forge friendships that will last a lifetime. In many other courses, you feel like the instructor has to teach to the lowest common denominator and that was completely not true in this course. It was a great feeling to know everyone wanted to learn, would come to class prepared, and would share their thoughts and opinions in order to get the most out of class everyday and to continue those discussions during lunches, dinners, walks back to the dorm, and late night study breaks.

IDB: What is your opinion on the professors and professionals that have spoken to your class?

CPT Fisher: The professors and professionals that have spoken to our class are top-notch and some of the best academics that our country has to offer. Each professor is an expert in their field, passionate about these subjects, and true professionals. They were able to provide us with interesting and relevant pre-readings, facilitate a socratic-method discussion, were always available for additional discussion or questions outside of class, and were truly committed to helping each student reach their potential. I always left class inspired and excited to learn more.

IDB: How would you describe the UNC-IDB SSFP program to your fellow peers?

CTP Fisher: I have been fortunate to have had some unique opportunities during my time in the Army, but I would ultimately describe this course to my peers as the best opportunity I have had thus far. It is challenging, frustrating, empowering, enlightening, fun, and rewarding all at various times. The “takeaways” we each have now are not the end state for this course – those takeaways are seeds planted that will continue to cultivate as we go forward in our careers. This course will continue to resonate with each of us throughout the rest of our time in the Army.

UNC-IDB SSFP’s Inaugural Graduating Class

For more information on UNC-IDB SSFP, please contact Zebrina Warner, UNC-IDB SSFP Program Manager at warner@idb.org, 919-969-8008