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November 17, 2017 at 5:23 pm

OHIO Undergrads Go to West Point for Conference on U.S. Affairs

China group at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at West Point, shown here ins a group photo.

China group at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at West Point.

Two undergraduate majors in Political Science and War and Peace Studies attended the 69th Annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, a rare opportunity for college students from across the country to participate in discussions on foreign affairs at the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.

The theme of this year’s conference from Nov. 1 to 4 was “The Politics of the Forgotten and the Aggrieved: Remaking the World Order?”—a frame intended to stimulate new ideas about “the politics of grievance as well as the continued marginalization of various groups throughout the world.”

Sarah Strinka, Ohio University’s delegate from the War and Peace Studies major, recounted conversations about the way the status of the United States is changing “as globalization lets those who have been forgotten and aggrieved in the past join the global conversation.”

The Political Science delegate, Bryce Jacob, echoed that while “globalization has altered our world in profound ways, the benefits of this more interdependent world have come at the expense of powerless groups and countries.”

The conference bills itself as “the largest and oldest conference of its type” and an “important means through which we promote civil-military engagement among future leaders from around the world.” For Jacob, arriving at the military academy involved some cultural adjustment.

“At first, it was somewhat of a cultural shock to be inside a military institution,” he said. “The day-to-day operations of the campus contrast very differently to my lifestyle here at Ohio University.” But both Jacobs and Strinka reported very productive conversations and collaborations.

Strinka explained that the experience gave them exposure to new perspectives.

“We had small group conversations with both civilian and military experts in the field, which offered a very different perspective than you get through regular classes at OU,” she said.

Literary group at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at West Point, shown here in group photo.

Literary group at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at West Point.

Conference organizers divide delegates into thematic roundtables, each of which works on a mock policy proposal and presents its recommendations at the end of the meeting. Jacob, who is also pursuing a second major in Global Studies – Asia, had the opportunity to work in a roundtable that aligned with his coursework in comparative politics, especially East Asian politics.

He remarked that “crafting a policy was a very intellectually stimulating experience. Not only did I get an opportunity to learn from other well-informed students, but I got insight into U.S. national security from experts in academia and the State Department.”

Strinka, meanwhile, reported that her work on a draft policy on international development “brought in themes from her OHIO classes on Postcolonial Theory, International Human Rights, and Communication among Cultures.”

Ohio University typically nominates one or two students for the SCUSA conference each November. Applications are due late August or early September. Students majoring in Political Science or War and Peace Studies who are interested in applying to attend the 2018 meeting may contact either Dr. Nukhet Sandal (for War and Peace) or Dr. Andrew Ross (for Political Science) for details.

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