Savarni Sanka at the 2019 West Point Conference

West Point Conference Participants Last fall, with funding from WFU’s Department of Politics and International Affairs, I had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s 71st Annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA). Centered around the theme of “Advancing the National Interest: The intersection of Domestic Politics and American Foreign Policy,” the conference brought together students from universities across the country, cadets from West Point and policy experts to discuss issues ranging from climate change to the weaponization of information. As delegates at the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) table, my civilian and military counterparts and I drafted a memo outlining policy recommendations about the security of the global energy market, public diplomacy, and threats to democracy in the MENA region. Dr. Karl Kaltenthaler, an expert on political psychology and counterterrorism at the University of Akron, and Mr. Peter Rough, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute specializing in transatlantic relations, guided us and provided invaluable feedback as we moved through our policy-development process.

Throughout the weekend, we also heard from other esteemed policy officials such as SCUSA 71’s keynote speaker, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and opening-night panelists, Ambassador Douglas Lute, Ambassador Victoria Nuland, professor and former congressman Dr. Chris Gibson, and The Wall Street Journal’s lead economics commentator, Mr. Greg Ip. It was an honor to have the opportunity to engage a group of experts and peers passionate about international relations and to have gained an inside look into life at West Point and in the military. I will forever be grateful to the department for sponsoring my participation in SCUSA and enabling me to have such a rewarding experience!

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