CHDS’ Ellen Gordon has new ELP Award named for her

Ellen M. Gordon with her namesake award

Honoring a legacy stretching back to the early days of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, former Executive Leaders Program director Ellen Gordon’s name is now affixed to a brand new award aimed at recognizing those program participants who exhibit the capacity to “seek knowledge beyond what is commonly known, to challenge the status quo.”  

The award is both the first named for a woman at CHDS and the first associated with the ELP. 

On Nov. 10, the inaugural Ellen Gordon ELP Award was announced and its first three winners announced in a surprise unveiling during an ELP session that left its recently retired namesake emotional and nearly at a loss for words.  

ELP Director Sara Kay with Gordon and CHDS Director Glen Woodbury

“I’m almost speechless,” Gordon said. “One of the hardest things for me is to be told you’ve done all these good things, I’m not a spotlight-type person. But I guess what this means to me that all the hard work over the years, there was a value placed on that. It brings tears to my eyes.”  

Gordon, who graduated from the first CHDS Master’s program cohort with current Center director Glen Woodbury in 2003, was also the first winner of the Butch Straub Award, chosen by fellow Master’s participants as the outstanding student.   

A nationally renowned leader in homeland security and emergency management, she retired earlier this year after more than 15 years at CHDS.  

“I want to thank all of CHDS for honoring me in such a wonderful way,” Gordon said. “Words cannot express how much it means to me. Thank you.”

According to Gordon’s successor, current ELP director Sara Kay, the award reflects the “guidepost” of Gordon’s career by focusing on ELP participants’ excellence in educational inquiry and the ability to “look beyond standard practices and procedures to expand existing viewpoints in the homeland security enterprise.”

Kay said Gordon was known for asking “So what? So what are we doing here today?” And Gordon was known for her “contributions to CHDS” that “fostered growth and innovation,” and inspired “new ways of thinking beyond existing perspectives,” according to Kay.  

The first Gordon Award winners, who were chosen by their fellow ELP participants, are as follows:  

  • Dr. John Martel, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine/Maine Medical Center Division of EMS, who joined the presentation by Zoom and represented Gordon’s final cohort (ELP 1902) at CHDS.  
  • Ella Carlberg (ELP cohort 2001), Homeland Security Advisor for the Swedish Embassy/Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency in Washington D.C., who served as a panelist during an ELP session on the day the award was announced.  
  • U.S Coast Guard executive officer Corey Braddock (ELP cohort 2002), who graduated with his ELP cohort on Nov. 12.    
Ellen Gordon ELP Award recipient Ella Carlberg
Ellen Gordon ELP Award recipient Corey Braddock
Ellen Gordon ELP Award recipient Dr. John Martel

So what? Why do we need to know this?
– Ellen M. Gordon

Cohort members were asked to nominate fellow participants who consistently seek out the “So What” question by exhibiting the following qualities:

  • Asks highly relevant questions that foster critical thinking and expand existing perspectives.  
  • Demonstrates outstanding listening skills by integrating ideas of others with own to synthesize new cross-disciplinary ideas.  
  • Actively exhibits a growth mindset and inspires a powerful passion for learning in others. 

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment |, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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