SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Joyce Dindo, a junior political science major/Russian Area Studies minor from Akron, Ohio, represented Wittenberg University at the 56th annual Student Conference on United States Affairs (SCUSA) at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Nov. 10. The organizing theme for SCUSA 56, “Beyond Hegemony: The Goals and Consequences of American Action at Home and Abroad,” brought together more than 250 outstanding undergraduates in the disciplines of international relations, economics, political science and related social science fields from around the nation and the world to discuss major issues and formulate proposals for American foreign policy.
Dindo served on the Russia and Central Asia Regional Round Table, along with approximately 20 students from diverse cultural backgrounds and cadets from West Point. Her group included, among others, students from Ukraine and Denmark and a Croatian who now lives in Australia. Students from across the United States, including California, Texas, Maryland and New York also attended. Dindo was the only participant from Ohio.
“At first it was intimidating to be surrounded by people from such big places as Notre Dame and Texas A&M,” Dindo said. “The most challenging part was having the courage to initiate discussion for the first time.”
However, she realized that it was a feeling shared by everyone, and the group quickly became engrossed in the discussions. Issue Round Tables included a variety of topics and were co-chaired by experts in the round table topics. Dindo’s group was co-chaired by Gavin Helf, who established Internet access sites in Central Asia, and Lt. Col. Chris Cavoli, a military strategist for the Russia/Central Asia region. Both are from Washington D.C. Dindo said that her group focused its discussion on democratization, economic issues, such as oil and natural gas, the war on terror and the situation in Chechnya.
As a political science major, Dindo found the discussion on democratization the most interesting. She also enjoyed a discussion about civil society in Russia, which was her focus during a 2003 summer field study in Moscow with Wittenberg Professor of Political Science and Director of Russian Area Studies George Hudson, Professor of Geography Olga Medvedkov and 10 other Wittenberg students.
“I learned more in those four days (at the conference) than I could ever have imagined,” Dindo said. “I had discussions with students from all over the world about a topic that we were all passionate about. Every single person brought a different perspective with a different background to the table. And we all left with new ideas and new relationships.”
Chosen by the political science faculty to represent Wittenberg at the conference, Dindo received a grant from the Office of the Associate Provost to pay her program fee and travel expenses. Metro International, the U.S. Military Academy and the United States Department of State subsidized the program costs.
Wittenberg’s participation in SCUSA comes through Hudson’s contacts with the U.S. Military Academy, where he was a visiting professor from1985-1986. He also participated in SCUSA on two occasions as a co-chair of a student discussion table, and on a third occasion he was a guest speaker/panelist. More than 20 Wittenberg students have participated in SCUSA since 1984.
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