NEWPORT, R.I. -- Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield introduced herself to the staff and faculty of the U.S. Naval War College during an all-hands meeting Aug. 13.
Chatfield, who assumed command of the 135-year-old institution Aug. 1, described herself as a lifelong learner who has prized the ability to read and study since, as a child, she watched her older sister start school.
“My most important relationship growing up was with the children’s librarian at our local library,” said Chatfield, who was raised in Southern California, and said she still identifies strongly as a Californian.
“Every time I went back to my hometown, I went into the local library and asked her, ‘Read any good books lately?’”
Chatfield, who holds a 1987 bachelor’s degree from Boston University in international relations and French, said her longtime goal had been to get a new degree every 10 years.
That plan worked for quite a while: She earned a spot at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government through the Navy’s political-military scholarship program and, in 1997, was awarded a master’s degree in public administration.
While at Harvard, she took the first steps of what became a long journey by attending an optional leadership course at Tufts University’s Fletcher graduate school.
“It made me fall in love with the study of leadership, the academics behind it, the study of the practice of it,” Chatfield told the audience.
That interest eventually led to enrollment in a doctoral program at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences. Chatfield’s dissertation looked at leadership in military command. She earned a doctorate in education in 2009.
“It was a love affair. And I say that because it took me a long time to finish. It was not just a hobby, but it was a calling,” Chatfield said. “Doing something of that depth while doing a normal military career, and doing it all in your free time, that wasn’t easy.”
It revealed something in her personality, she told the audience. “I will tell you something more about me, I’m a little bit stubborn,” Chatfield said. “You have to be a little stubborn, I think, to get yourself to finish a doctorate.”
Chatfield talked about her own leadership style – something formed in part by her time serving at NATO, where it was important that every player took a seat at the table.
“It is a good strategy to remember that when your most firm conviction is that you are right, it’s time to listen the closest,” she said.
Chatfield said she has dedicated initial swaths of time to meet with the college’s deans and department directors to learn what she needs to know about the institution.
But she added that she doesn’t want to be isolated from the larger staff. To that end, Chatfield said she will block off one lunch period per week as open time.
“We will put out where you will find me. So that if you’ve got time during your lunch break, and you know where I am, and you’ve got something that absolutely has to be said to me, everybody has equal access,” she said.
Chatfield said she has a great deal of respect for differences – hearing about differences and other people’s points of view.
“I want to see members of this team offer each other respect for differences, for diversity, for the dialogue from which ideas and collaboration emerge,” Chatfield told the audience in her closing comments. “I want to see academic excellence. I want to see integrity in academics and in research.”
She said the college’s ultimate goal is to provide a world-class education and a growth experience for students.
“So they can provide the best advice, the best policy recommendations and the best strategies to our senior leaders,” Chatfield said. “So that we can defend what we believe in, and when called, we can fight and win.”