Brendan Gooley ’12 was one of three UConn students sent by POLS to attend the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs. (We are grateful for funds from Alan R. Bennett that allowed UConn to send an extra student this year). Brendan tells us about his experience:
What is the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) and what are its goals?
The Student Conference on U.S. Affairs is an annual conference hosted by the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York each fall to bring students from around the country and the world together to discuss foreign policy issues facing the United States today. SCUSA has many goals, which include examining issues that the U.S. is facing or will likely face in the future, bringing together military and civilians to strengthen connections and bonds between the two groups, and facilitating discussion from a wide variety of perspectives on optimal U.S. Policy.
What do delegates do at SCUSA?
Delegates to SCUSA participate in a four-day conference focused around roundtable discussions on a particular area of interest, designated by the theme of SCUSA that year. Delegates stay in the barracks at West Point with Cadets, and get an experience of the Military Academy usually off limits to those outside the Corps of Cadets. During the working day, delegates spend the majority of their time in small roundtable groups of 10-20 students discussing the fundamental issues related to their topic of study, and coming up with policy recommendations that will be synthesized in a paper at the end of the conference.
What are the most important things that you learned at SCUSA?
SCUSA brings together an incredibly wide array of people and viewpoints from across the country. As such, I learned the true scope of the variety of different viewpoints that exist on many key issues. Perhaps even more importantly, the setup of the conference helped all of us develop critical skills of taking such a disparity of views and reaching consensus on issues to formulate a cohesive policy recommendation.
Additionally, SCUSA provided us direct access to West Point Cadets. It was an unprecedented opportunity to listen to people training to lead our military in the future, to hear how they felt about these issues, and to listen to their thoughts about the civil-military relationship at present and heading into the future.