Students explore security with CISS
One November day, after three hours on the road, a group of yawning students — a mix of undergraduate and graduate students — stumbled out of a tour bus onto the hallowed grounds of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Soon, the group found itself discussing civil-military relations, running up Culp’s Hill, imitating battles and debating battle strategies. A few months later, students ran through the corridors of Robertson Hall creating treaties, ordering military troops to move and gathering intelligence from rival countries as they worked to gain influence in Pakistan.
These programs, run under the Center for International Security Studies, have become more popular in the past year, and those involved with the program hope to increase its breadth.
CISS, led by professors John Ikenberry and Aaron Friedberg, was founded in spring 2009 by the University and the Wilson School. Through conferences, research projects and more, the center aims to give participants a venue to study national and international security.
CISS has hosted a variety of programs and conferences, including “India and the World,” a program directed by professor Shivaji Sondhi to highlight the country’s increasingly large role in Asia and in the global economy.
More recently, however, CISS has also organized a set of projects through its Stragic Education Initiative. SEI works to provide students of all levels with strategic experience through real-life scenarios and by exploring the areas in which strategic thinking has played a role in security.
One program under SEI is a staff ride to Gettysburg. Originally, the program was run under Friedberg, who would take small groups of students to the battle site. However, the program halted as the professor took a sabbatical in 2009.
Based on a request from Friedberg, Michael Hunzeker, the director of SEI and a doctoral student in the Wilson School, reorganized the trip in 2009.
“The feedback from this ‘first’ trip was so overwhelmingly positive ... that we decided to make it an annual event,” Hunzeker said in an email.
The point of such trips, he said, was to allow students to experience a battle in the commander’s shoes. Staff rides are not just field trips, Hunzeker emphasized. Students study the battle beforehand and, once on site, lead the discussions.
“It's another thing entirely to discuss the attack while standing on the actual Union position and seeing how far the Confederates had to travel — without cover — while being shot at the entire way,” Hunzeker said.
Crisis simulations are another venue for students to explore strategic thinking firsthand. Last year’s simulations included a simulation on Pakistan and a CIA simulation in which a crisis occurred in North Korea. The simulations, Hunzeker said, were the result of ideas brought forward by CISS students.
These hands-on events are built on Friedberg’s philosophy that “the best way to learn how to think strategically is to put yourself in a situation where you have to act strategically."
Activities with CISS, especially SEI, “create a vibrant community of present and future security policy leaders that extends beyond Princeton,” Friedberg said.
SEI is open to all students regardless of their major. According to Hunzeker, over 200 students from a variety of disciplines have been involved with SEI since its founding.
“I think SEI activities are as relevant to law, business and politics as they are to international security,” he said.
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