Victoria Cline ’19 and Kelley Gardner ’19 represented Washington College at what is considered the largest and most prestigious student conference of its kind. There, at the service academy on the Hudson River, student delegates and West Point cadets converged for the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) to better understand the challenges our nation faces in a global society. SCUSA delegates attended panel discussions, heard from high-profile speakers including keynote ambassador Susan Rice, and developed policy recommendations over the course of four roundtable sessions.
Washington College students have been attending the conference since the 1980s; the program has been underwritten by the Goldstein Program in Public Affairs for nearly three decades. According to Christine Wade, professor of political science and international studies and curator of the Goldstein Program, the conference offers a unique opportunity for civilian students to work with cadets on major policy issues.
“Our students always enjoy the conference,” says Wade. “But I also think they get a kick out of staying in the barracks with the cadets.”
Cline and Gardner both immersed themselves in the work of the conference.
Cline, a double major in political science and English who grew up in Latin America as the daughter of a missionary teacher, was part of the roundtable focused on that part of the world. Gardner, a double major in political science and sociology who previously interned with the Brookings Institute and with Vital Voices Global Partnership, was assigned to the roundtable considering the future of the United Nations and other multilateral organizations.
“We spent hours debating what we thought were the most pressing issues in Latin America—political corruption and weak economies,” says Cline. “Once we identified the roots of the problems, we talked about solutions that might work under the current U.S. administration. We tried to figure out what agencies or departments could be used to address those problems, how the United States might partner with private or international agencies to address those problems in a real way, and where the necessary funding might come from. Then we framed those solutions in a Trump rhetoric that we thought he could get behind.”
“In our policy paper we talk about the backlash against globalism, the weaknesses of the UN, and the dominant forces at work,” says Gardner. “We proposed reforming the United Nations by implementing stronger enforcement mechanisms. And we considered how the United States might use organizations such as NATO and OPEC to strengthen U.S. interests and enforce human rights agendas.
Gardner was one of six Washington College students to participate in the Hansard Program in London last fall. She has secured funding from the Douglass Cater Society to travel to Cuba this January, where she intends to examine revolutionary art and political propaganda.
Cline, a former intern for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, will be heading to Annapolis in January, as an intern with the Maryland General Assembly. She is considering a career in state politics or in the nonprofit sector.