Photo of Savannah Gazda

5 questions with…. Savannah Gazda, an athlete and military ethics student who recently attended the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference

Savannah Gazda doesn’t just hit fastballs—she also navigates the complexities of international relations and military ethics. A fourth-year from Illinois, the student-athlete is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies and a minor in Arabic alongside a Master of Arts in Military Ethics through Case Western Reserve University’s integrated program, which she’s set to complete this May.

While Gazda didn’t set out to study military ethics, she found herself drawn to the program after learning about it from an upperclass teammate involved in the Global Ethical Leaders Society, which is a program of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence.

“After researching the program, I found that it matched my academic interests perfectly,” she said.

Gazda recently had the opportunity to put her CWRU education to work at the annual U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Alongside three other students—and guided by leadership from the Inamori Center—she engaged with military leaders, students from various countries, and fellow civilians.

The conference, which has taken place yearly since 1984, serves as a platform for over 400 participants from 45 military and civilian colleges worldwide. For Gazda, the experience was a deep dive into the multifaceted realm of leadership, with an emphasis on the idea that leadership is a behavior, and not a position.

“The fact that you can be a leader and make a difference in your organization—or in your own life—regardless of whether or not you have a designated position resonated with me,” she said. “I definitely shared that insight with my softball team.”  

The conference also provided a unique space for participants to exchange ideas and experiences that have fueled personal and professional growth. Group discussions combined civilians with military academy students. 

“There was a lot of dialogue,” Gazda said, recalling how some conversations even involved disagreements with speakers. “These discussions were extremely beneficial, giving me different perspectives on leadership and decision making.”

In Gazda’s view, allowing space for differing opinions paved the way for a more comprehensive learning experience beyond simply listening to the speakers, which encouraged positive civil discourse.

There were also clear ties to Gazda’s coursework as a military ethics student at CWRU. The conference facilitated important conversations about the ethical dilemmas that leaders face and what happens when a leader’s decision conflicts with one’s personal morals.

“This is something we spent a good chunk of time on in class,” Gazda said. “Not just from the academic point of view, but from the ethical point of view. The conference gave me a lot of time to mull over these decisions and look retrospectively at case studies and examples.”

As Gazda prepares for a future in international and comparative law, this introspection will undoubtedly offer a valuable foundation.

Learn more about Gazda in this week’s 5 Questions.

1. What’s your favorite restaurant in Cleveland?

One of my favorite places to order food from is Pho and Rice in Coventry. I order their chicken pad thai and gyoza!

2. If you could go back in time and give your childhood self advice, what would you say?

If I could give my childhood self advice, I would tell myself to pursue anything and everything that interests me! I would tell myself to constantly be curious and want to learn more about the world.

3. What’s the best way to unwind after a long day?

One of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day is to have a movie/TV night with my roommates.

4. Who has inspired you most in life?

The person who has inspired me the most in life is my mom. To me, my mom is the perfect depiction of resilience, yet kindheartedness. She has inspired me to go through life working hard for what I want, but not forgetting to laugh and enjoy it!

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

One of my favorite things about CWRU is the multitude of opportunities available for students to be a part of campus groups that match their unique interests. I have had the opportunity to be involved in varsity athletics, academic clubs, and Greek Life on top of my academics while at CWRU.