Lt. Cmdr. Autumn Daniel, a Supply Corps officer from remote Roby, Texas, dominated this past quarter's Naval Postgraduate School graduate awards, honored with four in total including the top award given each quarter, the Monterey Council Navy League Award for Highest Academic Achievement.
"It's an honor to be considered for the awards because there is so much talent in both the student body and faculty, and really I should be thanking my classmates and professors who I learned from," Lt. Cmdr. Daniel said. "I think the analytical tools learned in the financial management and acquisition courses here will certainly help me solve problems in my next assignment."
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U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander congratulates Lt. Cmdr. Autumn Daniel during the NPS Spring Quarter Graduation ceremony held June 21. Lt. Cmdr. Daniel was one of the quarter’s most honored graduates, earning four top awards including the prestigious Monterey Council Navy League Award for Highest Academic Achievement.
In addition to the Navy League award, she was also honored with the Naval Supply Systems Command Award for Academic Excellence in Management, the Commander Philip A. Murphy-Sweet Memorial Award for Excellence in Acquisition, and the Louis D. Liskin Award for Excellence in Business and Public Policy.
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree through NPS' Graduate School of Business and Public Policy (GSBPP). And in spite of all her accomplishments, she is quick to note that it is the experience itself that she found most valuable.
"GSBPP and NPS was an excellent academic experience,” she explained. “I had the opportunity to learn from some truly outstanding professors, thesis advisors and classmates. Not only was I able to reconnect with some of my fellow Supply Corps officers, but I also had the opportunity to meet and interact with officers from other services and countries, which undoubtedly added mightily to the education I received.”
"I will leave NPS with myriad tools that I will be able to utilize and apply throughout the rest of my career, and I know without a doubt that the experience has helped me to become a more well-rounded naval officer," she added.
Professor Doug Brook served as one of Lt. Cmdr. Daniel's advisers for her MBA thesis project, and was also her instructor in a defense budget policy course. Brook nominated Lt. Cmdr. Daniel and her team to receive a GSBPP outstanding thesis award.
"Daniel led an MBA project team with Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Boggs and Pakistan Navy Cmdr. Syed Ahsan that completed phase three of a yearlong project funded by PACFLT [U.S. Pacific Fleet] N-4,” Brook said. “They built, tested and delivered an optimization model for quantifying port visit decisions in the PACFLT area of responsibility. This was a challenging project and the team did a superb job.”
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel and her team briefed the project to the sponsor via video-teleconference, and demonstrated the working model. Their project report was then converted to a technical report and given to PACFLT N-4 along with a 'plug and play' version that will enable PACFLT planners to operate and modify the model.
"Obviously, she was hard working and an excellent student, but so are many of our students," Brook said. "If you asked me what about her stands above the rest, I would say it's the clarity of her thinking and her superb writing skills. These are valuable traits in today's Navy and senior leadership should seek her out for assignments that require those attributes," Brook added.
Another of Lt. Cmdr. Daniel's advisors, visiting NPS Department of Operations Research Professor Dr. Daniel Nussbaum, echoed Brook's sentiment on Lt. Cmdr. Daniel's clarity in thought, her ability to communicate complex ideas, and to deal with pressure.
"As we get down to the final weeks of any thesis, there are almost always analysis and writing pressures," Nussbaum said. "She handled these very well, and in fact kept the process on track to my delight, and I am sure to the delight of her teammates, under this thesis pressure.”
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel's fellow classmates showered the same compliments on her as her professors and advisors. Fellow Supply Corps officer and GSBPP student, Lt. Cmdr. Brad Carroll, noted her unique optimism and commitment to success were both rare and refreshing.
"She is incapable of being discouraged," he said. "She excelled at completing assignments early rather than later. In doing so, she would not experience the stress of procrastinating while freeing her to assist her classmates.”
"She also has the ability to block out all distractions and focus on the task at hand,” Lt. Cmdr. Carroll added. “While some students retreat to the quietest corners of the library, I would most often see her studying in the main bullpen of kiosks at Dudley Knox with all its foot traffic and whispered conversations.”
Born and raised in Roby, with a population of just more than 600, Lt. Cmdr. Carroll noted that while Lt. Cmdr. Daniel’s academic abilities were impressive, it was her character that caught her classmate's attention most.
"Coming from a small Texas farming community, I think she embodies small town values, where she is responsible not only to herself but also the larger community," he said. "She would go out of her way to help her classmates to help them succeed, whether or not it was in a group setting."
Despite the accolades earned by her academic prowess and high character, Lt. Cmdr. Daniel had no time to rest on her laurels. Following graduation commencement, she immediately headed south from Monterey to report aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in San Diego, where she will serve as the Principal Assistant for Services Officer.
By Javier Chagoya, Naval Postgraduate School Public Affairs