From One Hill to Another

Experiential learning in our nation’s capital helps prepare the next generation of Norwich leaders.

“There’s a situation developing in the East China Sea. Go!”

With that, 15 Norwich University students scrambled to their seats in a simulated National Security Council (NSC) exercise in March 2017—the culmination of a Spring Break spent immersed in the world of U.S. intelligence, counterterrorism, and security policy in our nation’s capital.

With retired Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Thad Allen, portraying the U.S. president, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Army General Gordon R. Sullivan ’59 portraying the vice president, the students practiced the collaboration, cooperation, and subject matter mastery vital to formulating an appropriate crisis response. By the end of the session, “the simulated council had performed exceptionally well and received valuable feedback from the observers,” reflects political science student Erik Rajunas ’18. “It was a unique experience that will serve us well beyond Norwich.”

Pictured, the 2017 Norwich D.C. Policy Week delegation. The 2018 D.C. Policy Week took place during Spring Break, which coincides with the publication of this issue of the Record.

Pictured, the 2017 Norwich D.C. Policy Week delegation. The 2018 D.C. Policy Week took place during Spring Break, which coincides with the publication of this issue of the Record.

Now entering its fifth year, D.C. Policy Week offers what political science Professor Yangmo Ku describes as “unprecedented access” to officials at the highest levels of U.S. government. He credits NU’s extensive D.C. network for such access, as well as the passion with which alumni volunteer their time and talents toward making the week happen.

Professor Ku teaches the prerequisite course for juniors and seniors aspiring to participate in the D.C. policy experience. During the semester, students examine the historical contexts for—and the fundamental roles, institutions, and dynamics comprising—the country’s security policymaking process. At the same time, they research and familiarize themselves with the NSC roles they will play in D.C. With assistance from Tony Johnson ’94—chair of the College of Liberal Arts Visiting Committee of the Board of Fellows, who connects class participants with alumni mentors in the field—students gain access to firsthand knowledge from within the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the State Department.

This year, Eric Doucette ’92 and Trevor Hough ’95 (see “From the Hill to the White House”) have arranged for the students’ access to the White House.

“We get a lot out of it,” Hough says. “We love talking to the kids; and every year, we remember how incredibly smart and dedicated Norwich students are. It’s an amazing thing to experience.”

“I didn’t know how any of this worked until I got here,” Doucette adds. “The fact that students can experience the inner workings of our government so early on—it’s invaluable.”

Who knows? Perhaps the next Norwich graduate to land in D.C. will sit in the Oval Office. – Jane Dunbar

 

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