Marisa Porges, Head of The Baldwin School — The Habit of Obsessive Note-Taking, The Power of Connection, Military Veteran, Building Adaptability and Courage, The Effort to Keep Going, Taking Risks, and More (#151)

The Nishant Garg Show

“Things change so quickly and it’s really about incremental changes that have a lasting difference to make the world better.”


Dr. Marisa Porges is known for her work on gender and education, leadership, and national security and is the author of What Girls Need: How to Raise Bold, Courageous, and Resilient Women (Viking Press, 2020). She is currently the eighth Head of School of The Baldwin School, a 130-year-old all-girls school outside of Philadelphia, that is renowned for academic excellence and preparing girls to be leaders and changemakers. She is an alumna of Baldwin and personally understands the power of its approach to educating girls: it provided the foundation for her own military service and work on national security and foreign affairs.

Prior to joining Baldwin, Dr. Porges was a leading counterterrorism and national security expert. Most recently, she served in the Obama White House as a senior policy advisor and White House Fellow at the National Economic Council, where she oversaw the development of domestic cybersecurity and consumer protection policies. She also has served as a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and at the Council on Foreign Relations, where her research focused on counterterrorism. In these roles, she traveled alone throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan to conduct research, interview former members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, meet with Syrian rebel fighters in hiding, and serve as an embedded civilian advisor at NATO military headquarters in Afghanistan. She also worked as a counterterrorism policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Treasury and as a foreign affairs advisor in the U.S. Department of Defense. In all these roles, she stood out as one of a few – if not the only – women present, at any given time. 

Dr. Porges started her career on active duty in the U.S. Navy, flying jets off carriers as a naval flight officer on EA-6B Prowlers. Ten years after the Navy first allowed women to fly jets into combat, she pursued her dream of being launched off an aircraft carrier while serving her country. She earned a B.A. in geophysics from Harvard, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a PhD in war studies from King’s College London. Her awards include the National Committee on American Foreign Policy 21st Century Leader Award and the NATO Medal for service in Afghanistan. Dr. Porges lives outside of Philadelphia, with her family.

Please enjoy!

Marisa’s new book: What Girls Need: How to Raise Bold, Courageous, and Resilient Women

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Show Notes:

  • You talk about playing video games to build our creativity and to solve creative problems. Why is that?
  • What kind of video games did you play while growing up?
  • Announcing the intention to leave the national security space
  • Graduated from Baldwin in school in 1996
  • Could you tell us a little bit about the school for our listeners who may not be knowing about Baldwin?
  • When you were in school as, as a student, did you face any challenge working in a girls school?
  • Sharing a memorable story from the childhood
  • How did you develop this passion for air wings, Navy military at a very young age?
  • Exposed to London school of economics
  • What was your motivation to study War Studies?
  • How to respond to emergencies
  • Nurturing courage
  • Whenever you test something new, what parameters or what constraints rules do you set for yourself before trying?
  • Risk assessment – What’s the worst that can happen?
  • Why do you think people don’t like to take lots of risks or what blocks to take risks?
  • You mentioned about carrying notebook in your hand while at airports, what did you write in those notebook?
  • Learning the power of connection
  • Did your parents instill any specific values in you when you were growing up?
  • Breaking resilience into core skills
  • Book writing process
  • and much more

Resources that helped me in the interview preparation:

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