This past April I represented Wake Forest University, on behalf of the Politics & International Affairs Department, at the annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in Annapolis, MD. Each year, the conference directors choose a current topic upon which to hold lectures, panels, and roundtable discussion groups. This year, we gathered around the topic of “Guarding Liberty in a World of Democratic Undoing,” which seemed particularly pertinent in today’s political atmosphere. Many of the lectures and panels focused on specific cases of democratic backsliding and growing authoritarianism, like those of Hungary, Poland, Russia, China, and even the United States. The conference also focused on identifying the common signs of democratic undoing. The beginning keynote address was delivered by Dr. Timothy Synder who spoke directly to this point as he based his remarks on his recent book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons for the Twentieth Century.
Because the conference is designed to create discussion between not only civilian and military attendees, but also domestic and international delegates, much attention was given to the roundtable discussion groups, which each focused on a different topic. My roundtable discussed the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe and how it has affected individual countries and the integrity of the EU as a whole—a topic that was very close to the research that I did for my senior thesis.
I have to admit that one of the most interesting aspects of the conference for me, outside of the topic itself, was the special access to the Naval Academy culture that every delegate receives. By getting to explore the campus, eating in King Hall with all of the 4000+ midshipmen, and asking endless questions, I felt that I had received a unique insight into this rather different world.
Overall, my experience at NAFAC provided a chance for enlightenment, academic growth, and the creation of new connections with both military and civilian delegates from other countries and all over the United States. I would like to express my gratitude to the Politics & International Affairs Department for granting me this opportunity!
Jay Buchanan is the recipient of the C.H. Richards Award for Excellence in Politics and International Affairs.
In February, I had the privilege of representing Wake Forest at the 2018 Pi Sigma Alpha National Student Research Conference, at which undergraduates from colleges and universities across the nation presented research they’d conducted.
Students presented research on a diversity of topics, from American campaign finance to conflict in the South China Sea. Presenters were grouped into one of four main subfields: comparative and international politics, American politics, public policy, and political theory. I presented the research paper I had completed in my senior seminar with Dr. Walldorf, entitled “Exceptional Environmentalism: American Culture and the Fate of Multilateral Environmental Agreements,” during a comparative and international politics session that was focused on international environmental politics and law. I received some insightful feedback and critique from my panel’s lead discussant, a graduate student in international politics at George Washington University. His advice, along with feedback I received from fellow student attendees, has been immensely helpful as I work to revise and improve my paper with an eye toward possible publication.
I also had the pleasure of hearing an address by Paul Begala, a CNN commentator and former Bill Clinton strategist, who served as the conference’s keynote speaker. The views he shared on the state of American politics sparked a fruitful lunchtime discussion of the ways in which political scientists and researchers ought to contribute to current political debate.
I’m so grateful to my professors and to the entire Department of Politics and International Affairs for having made my attendance at this conference possible. I was proud to represent Wake Forest at such an exciting event and am so glad that I had the chance to share my research with a wider audience of fellow students and researchers.
David Ajamy, double major in Politics and International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies, has been named a 2018 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a non-profit organization which works to advance the public purpose of higher education.
Thanks to the Politics and International Affairs Department, I had the honor of representing Wake Forest at the 2017 Student Conference on U.S. Affairs. The conference was held at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and was organized by the student cadets. The theme of the conference was the “Politics of the Aggrieved and Forgotten: Remaking the New World Order,” and our mission was to break into small groups and draft a policy recommendation for our area of focus. My group, “Migration and Refugees” had about 20 students, whose experience with immigration was both personal and academic. For three days, we debated which policies would best address the brokenness of our immigration system, while also working towards a policy recommendation. To advise us, we had the former U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo William Garvelink, and Refugee Women’s Network researcher Katharina Obser.
The event also featured interesting keynote speakers, such as Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the current UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. The experience of visiting West Point dovetailed nicely with my POL 300 Senior Seminar about Empires and the question of whether or not the United States is an empire. Having attending SCUSA in the historic and academic home of the USM, and engaged in dialogue about a creating a “new world order,” I gained additional clarity on that question. Visiting West Point and seeing security and international relations through the eyes of USM cadets and their superiors was an eye-opening experience. SCUSA was also an opportunity for me to meet undergraduate and graduate students from all around the world, who rang in my 22nd year with me as I celebrated my birthday during the conference. Overall, it was a very enriching experience and I’d like to thank the department for giving me the opportunity to attend and represent Wake Forest.
The Department proudly announces that two of its seniors presented senior orations at the Founders’ Day Convocation on February 15, 2018.
Rose O’Brien spoke on The Value of Self-Awareness and Kyle Tatich presented his view on The Essence of Wake Forest.
The Century Foundation hosted a panel “Should Charter Schools Help Integrate Washington, DC” with WFU alumni Kimberly Quick and Laura Wilson-Phelan serving as moderator and panelist (second and third from the right). Included in the picture are Dr. Harriger, director of the Wake Washington Program, and POL minor Brianna Reddick.
Last February, I was invited to represent Wake Forest at the 2017 Pi Sigma Alpha National Student Research Conference. At the conference, students from universities all over the country were invited to present research they have been conducting as undergraduates.
The presentation panels were divided up in categories of Comparative Politics, International Relations, American Politics and Public Policy. The panels were made up of three or four undergraduate presenters and one panel chair. The chairpersons were political science graduate students from Georgetown and George Washington University, and they offered valuable insights into our work as well as recommendations on how our research can be improved. I was a member of the final panel on Comparative Politics, where I had the opportunity to present my Senior Seminar Research Paper I had been working on with Dr. Wei-chin Lee, titled The International Criminal Court in Africa: Responding to Shortcomings and Accusations of Bias.
Our lunchtime speaker was Max Fisher of the New York Times and writer of The Interpreter, a newsletter using political and social science to examine and explain topics in international politics. He offered terrific insights into how undergraduates can grow as researchers and use those skills in the professional world.
Overall, the conference was an incredibly enriching experience and I felt honored to be there representing Wake Forest. Thank you so much to my professors and the department for allowing me to share my research and to meet so many interesting people.