Petkova ’16 Reflects on SCUSA experience

We also asked Iva Petkova ’16 to tell us about her experience at the 67th Annual Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA).

I recently had the honor of attending the 67th annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA), held annually at the United States Military Academy in West Point. Each year, the cadets tasked with running the conference select a theme intended to facilitate discussion between cadets and civilians regarding U.S. foreign policy and the future of our nation in a rapidly changing world. This year’s theme was “Confronting Inequality: Wealth, Rights, and Power.” The diverse group of delegates was made up of both civilians and cadets, who were all assigned to one of 15 roundtables covering a specific topic under the wider umbrella of inequality. I was assigned to the “North America” roundtable, in which we discussed the impact of race, gender, and class inequalities in the U.S. Our goal was to write a policy paper detailing methods for overcoming these deep-rooted inequalities, and to present our work in the form of a skit at the end of the four-day conference.

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Petkova’16 with UConn Student David Luchs ’16

The United States government is focused on addressing issues of inequality on every other continent; consequently, human rights issues happening in our own backyard are frequently overlooked. With the help of our two co-chairs—a Professor of Political Science at Purdue University and a journalist and writer specializing in economic issues—we discussed a wide range of timely topics with serious consequences for our country. These included the flawed criminal justice system, inequality of educational opportunities, rape on college campuses, and the underrepresentation of women in government and in the workplace. Our policy recommendations, though ambitious, aimed to increase the accessibility of the American Dream to all through the creation of new federal agencies, school programs and scholarships, and the implementation of reforms to the campaign system. As a Political Science and Human Rights major, I was excited to discuss ideas that I had been introduced to in my classes on a wider scale. The delegates all came from different areas of the world and unique backgrounds, so it was enlightening to learn from their viewpoints and experiences. I also felt privileged to hear from keynote speaker Madeleine Albright, who spoke to us about her own experiences with inequality in the U.S. and about the effects of technology and globalization.

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Petkova’16 with other SCUSA participants (second row, fourth from the left)

One of the goals of this conference is to bridge the military-civilian divide and to promote cooperation between cadets and civilians. My favorite moments came from interacting with the cadets and having my preconceived notions about the military lifestyle challenged. I assumed that the cadets would all be extremely serious, professional, and inherently different than me. From the moment the shuttles came to pick us up from the parking lot, and I heard the cadet drivers teasing each other about their driving skills. I realized these stereotypes were not entirely true. Since all of the civilian delegates stayed with cadet hosts in the barracks, I had to leave my comfort zone, getting used to the cramped conditions and the lack of privacy. However, this is what makes SCUSA so unique. By being integrated into the West Point world in this way, we were able to learn about military life in both formal and casual settings, in a way that would have been impossible had the conference been hosted elsewhere. From the cadets in my SCUSA roundtable, I was able to learn fascinating details about West Point life: the honor code, their military training, what they do after graduation, and more. However, the girls with whom I stayed in the barracks were not affiliated with SCUSA. From them I saw that behind the early morning formation, regimented schedules, and somewhat formal demeanor, these are students not very different than me. They joke around with each other, complain about homework, and worry about exams.

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Petkova ’16 Holds up the North America Placard

Although much of our time was spent working in our roundtables, there was plenty of fun and laughter. Despite their busy lifestyles, all of the cadets were truly welcoming of the civilian delegates. They took the time to show us around and answer our many questions. Many cadets seemed as interested in our lifestyles as we were in theirs. By staying in the barracks, attending delegate mixers, and going on tours of the beautiful campus, we were able to engage in a true exchange and learn from each other. The conference was a very fun experience and I left with new friendships, new ideas about the U.S. military and foreign policy, and with the hopeful and optimistic message that each of us is capable of enacting positive change in the world.

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Q & A on Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis

POLS Professor Venator-Santiago discusses Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Click here to read more!

Professor Venator-Santiago holds a joint appointment with the Political Science Department and El Instituto (Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies).

 

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Luchs ’16 Attends SCUSA Conference

We asked David Luchs ’16 to tell us about his experience at the 67th Annual Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA).

I recently had the privilege of attending the 67th annual SCUSA conference, titled “Confronting Inequality: Wealth, Rights, and Power”. Held annually by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. This four-day conference brings military cadets and civilian students together in a series of round tables intended to facilitate discussion on the challenges facing the United States. My round table – “Common Defense, Disjointed Security: Exploring European Threat, Defense Policy, and Capacity Inequalities” was charged with drafting a policy paper outlining potential U.S. responses to security imbalances in Europe.

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David Luchs ’16 – holding the “Europe” sign – with other participants at SCUSA

We focused on the different realities of security in Western Europe, where nations like France are only begrudgingly halting the sale of arms and material to Russia, but are deeply concerned with the challenges posed by the refugee crisis, and in Eastern Europe, where countries like Latvia are seeing officially-sanctioned distribution of Russian invasion survival guides. Given the deep institutional ties between these regions through organizations such as NATO and the EU, these differing realities are as crucial as they are difficult, to address. Guided by our co-chairs – a history professor and an ambassador – and a special visit to our table from keynote speaker Madeleine Albright, we spent four days in discussion and debate over the problems facing Europe and their solutions.

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Luchs at West Point

Perhaps the most unique part of the SCUSA conference was the opportunity to spend four days living in the barracks alongside West Point cadets. Using communal showers was definitely a step out of my comfort zone, and sleeping on an army cot did not make for a restful conference, but seeing what cadet life is like firsthand was absolutely worth it! Although I had heard that the popular image of West Point as an austere place full of serious and strict people was exaggerated, I was still left surprised by the extremely warm welcome we received as SCUSA delegates. The cadets were just as friendly and relaxed as students at a civilian institution, and even those who had nothing to do with the conference (which, it bears mentioning, was entirely cadet-run) were always happy to assist us in any way.

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The Battle Monument overlooking the Hudson River at West Point

Moreover, West Point’s location in the Hudson River Valley and bold, cathedral-style architecture were a (sometimes welcome!) distraction from the rhythm of drafting and redrafting that occupied so much of our time. However, we also had the chance to take in a slice of life at West Point, with social mixers, a campus tour, and even an athletics and weapons demonstration! That’s not to say that everything was loose and casual – since West Point is a military facility, we needed to be accompanied by uniformed cadets at all times, and the conference dress code was both formal and rigorously adhered to. SCUSA was both an exciting chance to discuss major events and an opportunity to make friends in the civilian and military worlds.

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UConn Model UN Ends Semester with Succesful Conference

On the weekend of November 13-15, the UConn Model United Nations student organization held its 17th annual conference. In total, the conference hosted over 300 delegates, debating a plethora of different world-pressing topics in 15 very different UN-based committees. Throughout the weekend there were many topics discussed, valid arguments that arose, and a great deal of eloquently written resolutions that were passed.

Overall, the students who attended the conference gained a great deal of experience with regard to parliamentary procedure, public speaking, and writing working/resolution papers. In addition, this year’s conference had two key note speakers, the Human Rights Institute’s Samuel Martinez and Shehab Chowdhury, UNICEF’s community engagement fellow based out of New York City. image5

Pictured above is the over 100 member student staff! UCMUN is one of the largest clubs on campus!

Students below debate the Israeli-Palestine Dispute in the ICJ committee lead by Maye Henning ’17.

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Director General Tyler Lemoine ’16 gives his speech during the opening ceremonyIMG_4358.jpg

Model UN is advised by Prof. David Richards. (POLS)

Written by Matthew Kosior ’16.

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Political Science Newsletter – Late Fall 2015

The most recent edition of UConn’s Political Science Newsletter has just been published! Take a look at our latest faculty, student, and staff news and achievements!

 

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UConn Model United Nations Hosts 17th Conference

This upcoming weekend, UConn’s Model United Nations will be holding a conference for high school students. The conference will run from Friday, November 13 to Sunday, November 15, 2015.

At this conference over 300 high school delegates will debate various UN topics including illegal organ trade, the Syrian refugee crisis, and treatment of political prisoners. This year, UCMUN is allowing students to choose from 15 different UN committees, including a first-time ever crisis committee that will be discussing the 1979 Hostage Crisis in Iran.

Model UN is advised by Prof. David Richards. (POLS)

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The Syrian Refugee Emergency: A Panel Discussion and Links

Join us for a panel discussion on the topic of the

Syrian refugee emergency: Humanitarian and Human Rights Perspectives

Thursday, November 17, 2015, at 7pm

Konover Auditorium in the Dodd Center

with

Dr. Jeff Crisp, Refugee Studies Center, University of Oxford

Dr. Zaid Eyadat, Political Science and Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut

Dr. M. Anne Sa’adeh, Joel Parker Professor of Law and Political Science, Dartmouth College

The event is co-sponsored by Middle East Studies, HRI, Global Affairs, and Global House.

Those attending the event may be interested in further links on the crisis:

Death in Syria (September 2015)

Life on Hold: The Struggle of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (interactive site)

Video on the Za’atari Refugee Camp (Jordan)

A New, Short Documentary Shows Syrian Women Refugees’ Brave Resilience (June 2015)

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