Gabi Revis, Marist College
This past November I had the honor of attending the 68th Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA). I was selected by my political science professors at Marist to represent the college at this conference which is held at West Point Military Academy each year. SCUSA allows students from many different colleges and universities to come and have in depth discussions on current U.S. affairs. Some of those schools included Baylor University, Harvard University, Indiana University, and so many more. Each year has a different theme and this year’s theme was Democracy and Democratization. At the conference, the delegates were broken up into roundtable groups and each group was assigned a different topic. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Europe group. The timing of the conference was perfect considering it started the day after the presidential election. It made the issues we were discussing more pertinent and it gave us an opportunity to come up with policy prescriptions for the president elect.
Throughout the four-day conference, my group crafted specific strategies for dealing with the European Union that president-elect Donald Trump could utilize. At the end of the conference we produced a final paper outlining our suggestions and then presented them to the rest of the delegates. In addition to these roundtable discussions, at SCUSA we were able to hear from many highly distinguished speakers. On the first night, there was a panel of speakers that talked about their experience and research on democracy. The speakers were, Professor Eva Bellin, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International Margaret Huang, and Professor James Levinsohn. It was interesting to hear from the diverse set of panelists considering two had an academic approach to analyzing democracy while the other two were drawing from real life experiences to discuss the state of democracy. Then the keynote speaker at this year’s SCUSA was Dr. Richard N. Haas who is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. While treated to a delicious meal, us delegates were able to listen to Dr. Haas talk about a wide array of topics in foreign relations and where he saw it going in the future.
While the conference was an amazing educational opportunity, it was also a great opportunity to experience first-hand the life of the cadets that go to West Point. We stayed in the barracks, slept on cots, woke up in the early hours of the morning, and ate in the mess hall. We had four cadets as a part of our roundtable group and it was always so interesting to ask them about the different types of training they have to go through and what a typical day at West Point is like. We were constantly sharing stories and learning about the differences between a West Point education and receiving an education at a liberal arts college, like Marist.
Overall, the SCUSA was an amazing experience. I learned a lot from the professional chairs that worked with our roundtable and from my fellow delegates. I also gained an appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the West Point cadets. I felt welcomed right away and I was so glad that my professors chose me to represent Marist College at SCUSA.