Jessica Rundell ’18 knows that the best way to prepare to enter the world she’ll inherit – with all of its challenges, opportunities and complexities – is to become immersed in it. That is exactly what the political science major is seeking to do. Rundell, along with other college students from around the world, recently spent four days discussing, debating and ultimately writing about one of the most critical issues facing our world today, democracy and democratization, at the 68th annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) at West Point.
Rundell was the fifth Le Moyne student to take part in SCUSA, whose aim is to facilitate discussion between civilian students and West Point cadets so that together they may better understand the challenges facing today's leaders. The conference introduces students to how challenging the policy-making process truly is. In addition, it also gives them the opportunity to interact with peers around the world, which for Rundell meant working with students from Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Indonesia, and Australia.
Over the course of the conference, Rundell and her peers attended panel discussions and heard from high-profile keynote speakers, including Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan; Margaret Huang, the interim executive director of Amnesty International USA; and Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Beyond that, the students had the opportunity to break up into small groups and to focus on a different contemporary issue related to democracy. It was in these groups that the delegates were put on the forefront of national issues and exposed to complex problems facing leaders today.
Rundell and her peers addressed how to solve ethno-religious conflicts. She took a particular look at human rights, and how it would be impossible to end ethno-religious conflicts without further addressing them. Finally, she and her colleagues shared their findings with others at the conference.
“The best part of the conference was getting to meet all the students from around the world, the cadets, as well as the different speakers and co-chairs for my group,” she said. “ I think that working with students from other countries, and even from other states, was an incredible experience because I got to see many different perspectives, especially about ethno-religious conflict and democracy, since several of the international students had experienced it firsthand.”