“U.S. Responsibility and the Global Community: Interests, Opportunities and Ethics” was the organizing theme for SCUSA 57, which brought together 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.
The goal of SCUSA 57 was twofold. The first goal was to prompt delegates to consider what responsibilities the United States has in the global community, taking into consideration the security, opportunity and ethical issues that face the nation. Second, delegates developed recommendations and presented policy papers that addressed when and where the United States should act and how the nation can effectively fulfill its responsibilities to itself and the spectrum of players that make up the global community.
Students were placed into groups and given roundtable topics for discussion. McKinniss said his group’s topic was Russia and Central Asia. Led by a professor of Russian language at USMA and at the National War College and co-chaired by a Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at CATO Institute and a human rights expert, McKinniss said the group consisted of 20 students from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Ireland, Canada and from across America, both Ivy League and small liberal arts colleges, along with four cadets.
“My preparation came from years of learning about Russian politics, language and culture at Wittenberg,” McKinniss said.
“The biggest challenge for me and the rest of the group was ‘breaking the ice’ and starting discussions about the area,” McKinniss said. “Once everyone knew how intelligent the group members were, the discussions became very lively and informative.”
He added that he was surprised by details the participants knew about the region. “It was refreshing to meet students who knew very specific historic, economic and political details about the area.”
During his free time, McKinniss said that he had befriended several West Point cadets, and he immersed himself in their daily routine. He said that he ate with them in the mess hall, followed them in their march formations and attended some classes with them.
“In turn, they invited me to go with them to their sniper range to target practice,” he said, adding that they also talked about football and hyped up their big rivalry against Navy.
McKinniss said that members of his group shared similar views regarding U.S. foreign policy toward Russia and Central Asia, which made drafting a presentation for the final assembly easy.
“In particular, we all agreed that we should encourage democratization, foster the development of civil society, and work closely with the nations around the Caspian Sea in order to have access to the Caspian’s energy resources,” McKinniss said.
Wittenberg’s participation in SCUSA comes through Professor of Political Science and Director of Russian Area Studies George Hudson’s contacts with the U.S. Military Academy, where he was a visiting professor from 1985-86. 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.
McKinniss’ Wittenberg experience has included travel to England in 2003, and to Scotland in 2005. A member of Pi Sigma Alpha, a political science honorary, he serves as a political science tutor. McKinniss also attended and presented a paper at the Midwest Slavic Conference at The Ohio State University in 2005 and plans to attend law or graduate school after graduation.
“This was yet another excellent opportunity that Wittenberg provided me. I learned so much from my four days at West Point,” McKinniss said. “I think differently because of this conference, I analyze events with more scrutiny, and I consider the diverse opinions of others more effectively. It was an unbelievable experience, and I’m thankful that I got to be a part of it.”
- Phyllis Eberts
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