"The opportunity to study at Stanford meant the challenge would be a world class one, but the knowledge gained would be the reward."

Scott Tielemans is a strategic planner with the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), a geographic combatant command of the United States Department of Defense. USCENTCOM is responsible for U.S. military activities and security cooperation among 20 nations of Central and South Asia, North Africa, and their surrounding maritime waters. Tielemans leads teams of officers in deliberate planning at the policy, strategic-theater and operational levels of warfare. His career military specialty is a Marine Weapons Systems Officer in the F/A-18D.

Well versed in strategic planning and foreign affairs, Tielemans nonetheless sought additional learning. He was inspired by a prominent general officer who encouraged officers to "get outside the military cloister" and challenge their thinking and perspectives. Researching continuing education options while stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Tielemans discovered the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD).

He signed up for Stanford's Strategic Decision and Risk Management (SDRM) program, earning a professional certificate in February, 2011. He is now in the middle of Stanford's International Security graduate certificate program. "I enrolled in Stanford professional development in order to learn and employ new, innovative leadership skills in conjunction with my career military education," he says.

His commands have been very supportive of his educational pursuits, even permitting time away from his duties to attend some classes on campus. One class Tielemans particularly enjoyed was Decision Quality in Organizations taught by Carl Spetzler, Bruce Judd, and Hannah Winter, where he got to meet his fellow classmates in person. "It was humbling and rewarding to be among so many other gifted individuals to discuss big, conceptual ideas and to hear their personal experiences from a variety of backgrounds," he says. "This was exactly what I had hoped to achieve by getting outside of my military environment."

He also found Professor Howard's Decision Analysis and Advanced Decision Analysis classes particularly memorable, and it was impressive to learn directly from a founder in that field of study. While not a self-described "numbers guy" by nature, Tielemans says he learned to use the math to support the analysis of a problem and validate decision choices.

Tielemans completed most of his classes at night or on the weekends. He even re-arranged his commute schedule, taking a bus to work instead of a car. Riding a bus for an hour both to and from work helped him complete his readings before he even got home. After work he would get online and watch the day's lecture. "The access via web-based media is first-rate," he says. His family was supportive of his needing to study during weeknights, and the good habits of time management and discipline honed throughout his military career helped.

The classes have forced me to think about complex issues in a deliberate, systematic manner," says Tielemans. He now approaches problems differently, looking at challenges more holistically and first understanding how things work. He tries to be clear on what is being asked of the command and what the application of military power and resources can and cannot do. "I have been able to incorporate my SDRM education and methods into my deliberate planning and crisis action planning activities with immediate results," he says.

Currently in the middle of his second certificate program, International Security, Tielemans finds the classes help him understand, with greater clarity, the interactions between U.S. foreign policy, security considerations, and the commitment of U.S. military power. This understanding allows him to incorporate important considerations of those interactions into his duties at USCENTCOM.

"Through SCPD," he says, "access to Stanford's people and resources is there for anyone who has the determination to learn as well as challenge their thinking, perspectives and knowledge at an elite institution. That challenge has never been more available."