2016 Honors Students prepare for upcoming challenge


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Photo credit: 
Jay Mallin Photos

As the fifteenth class of CISAC Honors students prepares to receive their hard-earned honors conferrals, members of the sixteenth class are excited to embark on their honors journey.

“I wanted to do this since freshman year,” said Sarah Sadlier, who will be one of twelve members of the 2016 honors class. “One of my friends and mentors was Ryan Mayfield (Class of 2013) who did the honors program and he invited me to watch his thesis presentation and he talked to me about his thesis throughout the year. It seemed like a fun process.”

Aaron Zelinger and Alexa Andaya, who will be joining Sadlier this fall, also became interested in the honors program their freshman year.

“I took PoliSci 104S with CISAC Co-Director Amy Zegart and CISAC Honors Co-Director Martha Crenshaw and I just loved the international exposure that it provided but also how interdisciplinary it was. They pitched CISAC and I knew I wanted to do it. I want to be in an immersive program surrounded by like-minded peers with a professor challenging my ideas,” said Zelinger.

“I wrote a paper on CISAC for a class so I got to know a little about the program and spoke with Martha Crenshaw. I realized how much work and guidance the honors students get and I realized that it’s a unique undergraduate experience and I figured it would be a good way to immerse myself in this topic before I move on to graduate school,” Andaya said.

The other 2016 honors students are Kayla Bonstrom, Abby Fanlo, Chelsea Green, Varun Gupta, Daniel Kilimnik, Ben Mittelberger, Matthew Nussbaum, Jana Persky, and Carolyn Wheatley.

The CISAC Honors program, established in 2000, accepts applications from interested juniors every winter quarter. The program is highly selective, with class sizes usually capped at twelve students. Students from any disciplinary major may apply.

“We look for students with high academic accomplishment, genuine interest in international security, and sufficient commitment, energy, and motivation to research and write a thesis. We also look for a mix of majors and backgrounds,” said Martha Crenshaw, who co-directs the program along with FSI Senior Fellow Coit Blacker.

Honors students begin their immersion in September when they will travel to Washington, D.C. for a two-week Honors College. Crenshaw and Former Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a CISAC affiliate, will be leading this fall’s Honors College.

“The Honors College provides students a superb exposure to many of the organizations and actors who shape and influence America's national security policies. The experience also helps them begin to develop their thesis as they test their propositions with those with whom they meet and through interactions with the Honors College faculty,” Eikenberry said.

This will be Eikenberry’s third time participating in the Honors College. “Without exaggeration, I look forward to every day of the Honors College. The meetings are extraordinary learning opportunities for students and faculty alike, and I find it rewarding to help contribute to the education of some very talented students. I am especially excited about the visit to the Gettysburg National Park where we will explore the timeless threads of continuity in strategy and warfare with a Civil War historian and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

Surprises often happen during students’ time in D.C. For example the class of 2015 met with President Obama advisor and Stanford alumna Valerie Jarrett as well as Admiral Michael Mullen, the former Chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. In 2007, honors students in a meeting with Steve Hadley at the National Security Council were surprised when President George W. Bush walked in and invited them into the Oval Office. Students sometimes have a chance to connect with CISAC Honors alums. This year they will meet with Varun Sivaram, Class of 2011, now an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. Sivaram will introduce the Class of 2016 to a Middle East expert and will also talk about his post-CISAC career trajectory.

The centerpiece of the honors program is the honors thesis. Sadlier’s research focus is on Brazil and its interest in the Middle East and how it sees itself as an emerging power. Zelinger plans on researching how China’s investments in new technology for asymmetric capabilities are a form of deterrence, and, if so, what their strategic outlook looks like with respect to the U.S. Andaya is interested in comparing Al Qaeda with ISIS.

Students are provided individual guidance by thesis advisors and CISAC Honors Teaching Assistant Shiri Krebs. Next year will be her third year serving as T.A.

She meets with students, reads and comments on their drafts, and helps them with their projects and the challenges that come with them. She also teaches sessions on various methodological issues including interviews, surveys, experiments, and bibliographical software.

“I just love helping the students making their intellectual dreams come true,” she said.

Next year’s class is already thinking about how they will realize them.