Our Mission

The Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab (LDNS Lab) advances character-driven leadership, diplomacy, and national security education and training in support of the full range of university enterprises. Led by diplomatic and national security professionals, The Lab dedicates itself to learner-centered solutions and thought leadership through a global network of partners employing state of the art learning tools.

Events, Timely Announcements and News


Support the LDNS Lab

Armstrong hall

The College's Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab will center on diplomacy, character-driven leadership

“The launch of the LDNS Lab demonstrates the opportunities ASU can offer our community by leveraging the university’s presence in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix. Freakley, Polt and O’Donnell each have decades of strategic knowledge and experience that our students and faculty can learn from to further engage with issues of importance locally, nationally and internationally,” said ASU President Michael Crow. "We are excited to give learners this chance to engage with and learn from the most experienced and distinguished diplomacy and leadership experts our university has to offer.”

Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab team

Core team

Benjamin C. Freakley

Special Advisor to the President for Leadership Initiatives, Arizona State University
Executive Director, ASU Decision Theater
Co-founder, Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab

Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley serves as the Professor of practice of Leadership for Arizona State University and as a Special Advisor to ASU President Michael Crow for Leadership Initiatives. Additionally, he serves as the Executive Director of the ASU Decision Theater Network and is a Co-Founder of the ASU Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab.  He retired from the U. S Army…
Michael C. Polt

ASU Ambassador-in-Residence and Professor of Practice
Co-founder, Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab


Ambassador Polt assumed his new position as ASU Ambassador-in-Residence in The College's Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab on October 1, 2020.  Prior to that he had served as Senior Director at the University's McCain Institute for International Leadership after concluding his 35-year diplomatic career in…

Rod Moore

Professor of Practice, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University


A retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Ambassador Moore has over three decades of experience as a diplomat, leader, manager, teacher, and consultant.   A part of the ASU community since January 2000, he has taught several unique courses on diplomacy - including POS 494 (Diplomacy in Action, the Embassy Country Team) and LAW 791 (Foreign Policy Design).

Edward B. O’Donnell

Professor of Practice, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University
Co-founder, Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab

Ambassador O’Donnell leads the ASU course (Policy Design Studio POS 494 and Washington Internship POS 484) “Diplomacy in Action, the Embassy Country Team” in Washington, D.C. and is launching a Master of Arts in International Affairs and Leadership. He is a member of the ASU Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab (LDNS Lab). He is a Professor of Practice in the School of Politics and…
Kathy Cook

Senior Director
Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab
Military and Strategic Initiatives, Office of University Affairs

As Senior Director of the ASU Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab, Kathy works closely with Lieutenant General Benjamin Freakley, U.S. Army (Ret), Ambassador-in-Residence Michael Polt, Ambassador Roderick Moore and Ambassador Edward O’Donnell to plan, design, execute and scale leadership and education programs such as ASU World Innovators, Character-Driven Leadership Workshops,…
Ashley Wright

Program Coordinator, Sr.
Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab
School of Politics and Global Studies


Ashley Wright is the Senior Program Coordinator for the ASU Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab (LDNS) in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Working closely with Ambassador O'Donnell, Ashley primarily manages the educational programs for LDNS: Policy Design Studio (POS 494) and the Master of Arts in International Affairs and Leadership program. Ashley also spearheads a…

Nikki Hinshaw

Program Coordinator
Leadership, Diplomacy, and National Security Lab


Nicole (Nikki) Hinshaw is the Program Coordinator for the ASU Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab (LDNS). She manages the communications and marketing strategy for the Lab as well as provides administrative support. In the Fall of 2018, she spent a semester in D.C. studying diplomacy with the LDNS's Policy Design Studio Program and interning at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau…

Distinguished university fellow

H.R. McMaster

ASU Distinguished University Fellow

H. R. McMaster is the Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.  He is also the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.  He was the 26th assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. Upon graduation from the United States Military…

Distinguished fellows

bill Deere


William R. (Bill) Deere serves as Senior Congressional Advisor to the Washington, DC office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). In his position, Bill is part of the UNRWA team helping to clarify the agency’s mission, programs, and challenges to Washington policymakers with a special focus on Capitol Hill.

Bill Heidt

Ambassador William (Bill) Heidt, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor, assumed his duties as Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy on November 4, 2019.

A career economic officer, Ambassador Heidt served on the faculty of the Eisenhower School from January…

Amb. David Johnson

Ambassador Johnson became an adjunct member of the ASU faculty in the fall of 2020.  During the last decade of his 33-year service as a career diplomat, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL), Charge’ at the United States Embassy in London, Afghan Coordinator for the United States, and United States Ambassador to the…

Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben, U.S. Navy (Ret)


Presently serving as the 61st Chaplain of the House of Representatives, she was elected by House Membership and sworn in by the Speaker of the House on 3 January 2021.

A Navy chaplain for 35 years, Rear Admiral (ret) Margaret Grun Kibben, her Navy and Marine Corps assignments were comprised of tours up and down the east coast, a quick trip out west, and several deployments, to include…

Caroline Lynch

Caroline Lynch is the founder and owner of Copper Hill Strategies, LLC, providing client-focused government relations, strategic planning, legislative, and business development services. She has fifteen years of Capitol Hill experience, including a decade with the House Judiciary Committee where she served for eight years as the Chief Counsel of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and…

Ambassador Catherine Novelli

Catherine A. Novelli has worked in the field of international trade policy for over 30 years. She has served every President from Ronald Regan to Barak Obama. Most recently, she was Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, reporting directly to the Secretary of State.

Ambassador Peter Romero

Ambassador Peter F. Romero is currently Co-Host/Producer of the podcast "American
Diplomat." This unique podcast features the personal narratives of our nation's career
Foreign Service Officers, has reached 650K downloads, and a solid five-star rating with
an 86.2% loyalty (repeat listens) rate. He is a seasoned international practitioner with a 45-year track record of…

Matt Spence

Dr. Matt Spence is a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor Law School and Thunderbird School of Global Management, and Senior Advisor to University President Crow.

Ambassador Kurt Volker

Ambassador Kurt Volker is a leading expert in U.S. foreign and national security policy with 35 years of experience in a variety of government, academic, and private sector capacities.  He served as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations from 2017 to 2019, and as U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 2008-2009.  Ambassador Volker is President and Founder of Alliance Strategic…

Junior fellows

Aman Barekzai

Fall 2021

Aman Barekzai was born and raised in Arizona. He has recently graduated, majoring in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations, while also minoring in History and Communication. He is currently a Master's candidate for the 4+1 Accelerated M.A. Program in Political Science. As an Afghan-American and first-generation college student, Aman aspires to leave behind a positive…

Robert Lavender

Fall 2022

Robert Lee Lavender Jr is from Phoenix, Arizona. He has lived in Phoenix his entire life which is why he is proudly attending Arizona State University. He is majoring in Political Science and Geography. He is in his final year of undergraduate studies and plans on attending graduate school for a Masters in Global Security. When he is not working, or in school, he competes in Spartan Races as a…

Mariah Maury

Spring 2022

Mariah is a political science senior from Chicago, Il. She has a background in fitness, curriculum writing, instructing, program coordination, and entrepreneurship. Mariah also has training in applied behavior analysis and is an intuitive advocate for neurodiversity. She champions functional empathy in philosophy as well as in strategy. Mariah has participated in several ASU programs including…

Sydney Selde

Fall 2021

Sydney is a German-American senior majoring in Global Studies and Political Science with a certificate in Religion and Conflict. Her academic interests include U.S. foreign policy, refugee and migration issues, and women in conflict zones, with a regional focus on the MENA and Central Asian region. A former Capitol Scholar and current Policy Design Studio participant, Sydney is a founding…

Ella Wofford

Fall 2022

Ella Wofford is a rising junior from Lake Havasu City, Arizona. She is majoring in Global Studies and International Letters and Cultures (Arabic Studies) while minoring in Religious Studies and completing a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership. Outside of academics, Ella is focused on strengthening her community through facilitating dialogues, participating in service events, and advocating…


Spring 2022

Jamshid Yarzada is a first-generation college student currently pursuing his bachelor's degree in social work at Arizona State University (ASU). His passion for social work stemmed from a lack of justice and equality in his own life as an Afghan. Due to this background as a young arrival to the United States, he became motivated to help other arrived refugees resettle in Arizona and enroll in…