Senior Fellows

Zachary Goldsmith

Zachary R. Goldsmith is special assistant to the dean in Purdue's College of Liberal Arts and a visiting assistant professor in Purdue's Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts program. His academic interests include political ideologies, violence, and extremism, including how these phenomena interact with US foreign policy. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and a master's and doctorate from Indiana University, all in political science. He has earned several prestigious fellowships, including a Fulbright Fellowship and a Graduate Fellowship from the Rumsfeld Foundation. 



Elis VllasiElis Vllasi, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue Policy Research Institute, and a Fulbright (Specialist) Fellow. A civil engineer (he received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan Technical University) and environmental engineer (he receieved his master's degree from University of Tennessee, Knoxville), he recceived his doctorate in political science from Purdue University. He is an expert in analyzing and solving complex political and engineering challenges on the global scale by developing and leading multidisciplinary teams toward integrated solutions. His current research examines Russian hostile influence in the Balkans. This work extends his dissertation topic by exploring in greater depth the effects of hybrid warfare to influence Russia’s opponents' domestic politics or restrain them from joining trading blocs, alliances, and international institutions. Vllasi is an award-winning university instructor who has taught courses on nation-building and war, international political economy, and international relations.


Junior Fellows


Nagisa IshinabeNagisa Ishinabe is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University, who studies international human and material flows using a variety of advanced network analytic procedures. Her work on migration and trade breaks new ground in the field of International Relations, focusing on the dependencies and tensions between groups, individuals, and nations. She has a long standing interest in environmental and sustainability issues.




Picture of Matt Konkoly

Matthew Konkoly is an MA student in computer graphics at Purdue, where he graduated with a BS in computer science with a minor in classics. He is interested in 3D rendering technology and history. As FORCES Junior Fellow/Developer he is currently developing a scaled virtual 3D model and simulation of D-Day’s Omaha Beach. Konkoly hopes to continue working on cutting-edge historical projects to bring the past to life in a virtual interactive environment. 








Justin Mansell pictureJustin Mansell is a doctoral candidate at the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where his research applies artificial intelligence to space mission design and operations. In 2015, prior to coming to Purdue, he completed an undergraduate degree in space physics at his hometown University of Calgary. His 2017 master’s thesis focused on the optimization of hypersonic glide trajectories. Mansell's recent projects include designing trajectories through Earth’s radiation belts, and using machine learning to detect, diagnose, and respond to faults on spacecraft. He will alternate with Geoffrey Andrews in leading our  “America – and Purdue – in Space"  tours to Cape Canaveral.   

Headshot  of Barry Scott

Barry Scott is a naval officer and PhD student at Purdue’s Military Research Initiative working toward a doctorate in technology. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Oregon, and a master’s in strategic studies from the Naval Postgraduate School. His academic interests cover all facets of military and national security studies, as well as innovation and emerging technologies. Scott’s current research focuses on threats from hybrid warfare.  



Picture of Matthew EllisMatthew Ellis served as FORCES' junior fellow and staff assistant from 2019-21. A PhD student in Purdue University s Department of Political Science, he earned a bachelor's from Texas Christian University and a master's from the University of Leicester in International Relations and World Order. His academic interests cover Eastern European security issues, hybrid warfare techniques, conflict mapping, and nuclear weapons proliferation. His work on social media influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been recently published, and his current research focuses on NATO-Russian relations. He continues to have a relationship with FORCES.


Krassimir Tzvetanov is a PhD student at the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, and he is also pursuing his master’s in Picture of Krassimir Tzvetanovtechnology, with focus on homeland security through the Purdue Homeland Security Institute. He holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering (communications) from Technical University of Sofia, and a master’s in digital forensics and investigations from University College, Dublin. Over the past 15 years he has focused on cyber threat intelligence, investigations, defensive and red team operations in the cyber domain. In addition, his research investigates cyber physical issues such as influence operations, active shooter simulations, and bio-security.  


Research Assistant 


Justin HayJustin Hay is a Junior from Albany, NY studying computer science here at Purdue University. He has expanded his knowledge of software by developing web and desktop applications on his own and here at Purdue. As somebody who has played strategy games like Europa Universalis IV in his spare time, Justin is excited to help design a strategy game here at Discovery Park.




Tyler HaireTyler Haire is a senior dual majoring in computer science and data science along with a management minor. He loves working to solve both technical and business problems and has experience working with local software startups in Indianapolis. Having developed industry grade software Tyler is excited to apply his skills in the research world to help understand some of the major events of the past.





Michael Kuczajda is an honors senior from Maryland studying Global Studies and Psychology at Purdue while minoring in Islamic and Asian Studies. He is passionate about military tactics, wargames, and studying military maps. I also enjoy creating dioramas of historical battles in my free time. 


Christopher YungChristopher Yung is an undergraduate pursuing his passion in computer science, with a focus on software engineering and artificial intelligence. He has an interest in all things computers, including both hardware and software aspects. Yung has also worked on many projects in the past, including creating his own Spotify web application. He hopes to further his web development knowledge through his FORCES work creating user interfaces for battle simulations.

Henry Wu


Course Offering: Technology, War, and Strategy

Upper-level undergraduate and graduate students who take this course, created by retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Kirchubel, PhD, and FORCES Founder and CLA's Associate Dean of Research Sorin Adam Matei, learn how technology impacts and influences elements of political, military, economic and cultural strategy. They also learn about the evolution of strategic thinking and its place in the world. The course includes presentations from national and international experts, offering students the chance to interact with those who are widely known in their fields. Contact FORCES staff for more information and details about upcoming course availability at

Barry Scott took over the course in Spring 2021, and among his numerous updates was the inclusion of an online iteration of the classic board game Diplomacy. When the Honors College asked FORCES to teach the course again in Fall 2021, Rob and Sorin made the course “all Diplomacy.” In addition to the standard lectures, readings, and guest speakers, students divided into national teams and played three simulations: Diplomacy and a Diplomacy-based variant on the Peloponnesian War (ancient Greece) developed by Rob, plus a South China Seas variant (contemporary global situation) developed by Sorin. Students did not just play games all semester, however. Prior to each sim, national teams researched and wrote a strategy memorandum that would guide their play, and afterward, they wrote an after action report analysis. At the end of the semester, each team gave a presentation to the class on lessons learned concerning strategy as well as the trajectory of their learning curves throughout the three simulations.


Q & A with Francesca McCallister, Class of 2020, talks about FORCES Initiative course benefits

Francesca McCallister came to Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts with a record of excellence and a vision. An Evans Scholar who received a full-tuition, merit-based scholarship sponsored by the Western Golf Association, she majored in pollical science and minored in global studies and human rights. She also earned a certificate in public policy, and she has set her sights on an impressive future.


“After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in global security and diplomatic relations,” McCallister said. “I want to make an impact and improve the quality of life for American citizens and citizens around the world, working towards a policy ensuring that liberty and justice is applied to many instead of few.”


During her final semester at Purdue, McCallister enrolled in FORCES’ Technology, War and Strategy course. Shortly before graduation, she shared her reaction to the course.


Q: What motivated you to take the class?

It was my experience with the Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation (i-GSDI) and political science that compelled me to take this course myself ...


Q: Briefly describe the course.

The course was divided into three modules. The first focused on principles of strategy, the second on technology-centric military strategy, and the third on technology-centric strategic thinking in the recent past and near future. ..


Q: Which of the modules did you gain most insights from, and why?

I found I gained the most insight from the second module on technology-centric military strategy. The speakers from this second module included Colonel Gail Yoshitani and Mr. Richard Samuels ...


Q: What kind of impact has this course had on the way you think about technology and strategic thinking?

This course has taught me the importance of military strategy, decision making, and expert input. The discussions with experts throughout the semester have enriched the course work, showing it has real-world implications ...


Q: Would you recommend this course to others?

I would recommend this course to any undergraduate student who is interested in learning more about national security and defense ...


(Note: FORCES plans to offer this course again in Spring 2021 in a slightly modified form. For more information, contact


Simulating the Cuban Missile Crisis:

Interactive Pedagogy in the FORCES   Technology, War, and Strategy   Semina r

AUTHOR:  Zachary Goldsmith, PhD  
JUNE 2020


“Attacking American jets arriving in Cuba, three minutes.” Frantic requests for information coming from Moscow. Nervous and confusing responses from Washington, DC. Belligerent declarations in Havana. No, this was not American action taken surreptitiously over the last few years, despite the worsening relations with Cuba. Neither was it an episode from the real Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The event did occur, however, during the student simulation of this historical event in the Spring 2020 FORCES seminar, Technology, War, and Strategy. The FORCES Initiative, a component of the College of Liberal Arts, created the seminar for the Honors College. The course, supported by a stellar series of speakers from the Air War College, West Point, RAND Corp, and elsewhere, aims to rethink undergraduate education, as an interdisciplinary and experiential effort. As taught by FORCES, strategy is not a theoretical concept, but as a practice. The instructors were Dr. Robert Kirchubel and Dr. Sorin Adam Matei. Kirchubel holds a PhD in History, specifically military history, with a focus on the 20th century. He is the author of the Atlas of the Eastern Front and Atlas of the Blitzkrieg and is a former US Army LtCol (Armored Forces). Matei, who is also the Associate Dean for Research of the College of Liberal Arts and the director of the FORCES Initiative, is a multidisciplinary social scientist interested in strategy and technological choice. 
The core experiential learning opportunity of Technology, War, and Strategy consisted of simulating the Cuban Missile Crisis. The resounding practical lesson from this student-run wargame was that real-world leaders face acute pressures and confusion in times of crisis. During a particularly tense moment of this hour-long simulation, it appeared as though the US had indeed ordered planes against Cuba, charged with an as-yet undefined offensive mission, to join ships sent earlier to form a blockade. This information was in turn relayed to the Soviet team. Unsure of how to react to the challenge, the USSR could not decide on single course of action. It learned only later—to everyone's great relief—that the “intelligence” about the attack had been erroneous, a result of the confused American deliberations and uncertain chain of command. Illustrative for any student of foreign affairs, this incident clearly demonstrated for our students how difficult decisions in international politics are often made under the least advantageous circumstances (defined as incomplete information, severe time constraints, and stakes that could hardly be higher).  
Purdue alumni Dr John Fahey and collaborator Dr Matt McDonough developed the wargame while post-doc instructors at West Point. But how did the simulation run and how can it be used as a practical exercise in class? Assigned at the start as American or Soviet leaders in separate classrooms, students took on specific governmental and military roles with corresponding - though sometimes competing - objectives. After receiving a brief overview of the actual ’62 crisis and with the clock ticking, the students were left on their own to make decisions as if they were the historical actors. Each team had an outcome considered a “win,” as well as scenarios they would prefer and those they would merely accept.     
The US objectives ranged from merely removing missiles from Cuba to expelling the entire Soviet presence. Or—certainly a far grimmer possible outcome—the US team could accept annihilating major Soviet cities in a mutual nuclear exchange. Minutes passed as hours in this simulation, while ideas, plans and solutions developed by one team were relayed to the other team (with time delays). This mimicked the flow of real-world information through either national intelligence sources or news reports. Ambassadors engaged in shuttle diplomacy outside in the hall, and relayed the outcome of their meetings to their respective cabinets. Members of each team were often at odds with each other in desired outcomes, and best plans to achieve these ends. All options were entertained: The Soviet team mulled over firing missiles into West Germany, while the US team wondered whether another assault on Cuba (following the Bay of Pigs fiasco) could be successfully orchestrated. In the eleventh hour, with perhaps a minute to go before the deadline (the end of class!), both sides achieved a hastily reached accord: Soviet missiles out of Cuban with no preconditions - an outcome even more advantageous than that secured by Kennedy nearly six decades ago. 
The experience greatly enhanced student understanding of strategy as a negotiation of time against success, and means against ends. In the words of student Francesca McAllister, “The experiment allowed students to work together applying the strategic tools we had learned about in class. I feel that simulations always push students to find the purpose and reality of the lessons taught in class. Overall, this section stood out to me over the others due to the discussions and strategic thinking that was applied.” 
Supplementing student education in this way with real-world simulations allowed students to understand more fully the types of pressures and constraints in which political actors operate, including those at the intersection of technology, war, and strategy. Such an exercise perfectly illustrates the saying “if you tell me, I forget; if you teach me, I might understand; if you involve me, I will remember and will be able to apply the lessons learned.” 

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