Every September, The Center for International Security and Cooperation has two programs, Honors College and a seminar class, Face of Battle, that both kick off the academic year with separate, intensive trips designed to challenge the confines of the traditional classroom.
Rising seniors in the CISAC Honors College, travel to our nation's capital for an immersive, two-week program, setting the stage for deep exploration and critical discussions on their thesis ideas with policy makers, members of the media, and think tank representatives. This rare access allowed the students to not only refine their thesis ideas, but also integrate real-world perspectives into their academic pursuits.
“The mix of people is what made the trip so special! The value was seeing where everyone sits in the apparatus that is our USG -- where do think tanks come in in relation to policymakers? What about the IC? It was so interesting to learn the types of questions that various individuals were asking, and how those questions differed based on their particular vantage point,” says Kyla Guru, an honors program participant.
Guiding the experience were two distinguished faculty advisors, Colin Kahl and Rose Gottemoeller, both seasoned experts in international security policy. Encouraging exposure to diverse sources, Kahl and Gottemoeller offered a holistic understanding of international security and the policymaking processes that shape our governments.
Around the same time, Face of Battle, a three-week seminar style class led by Prof. Scott Sagan and Allen Weiner that sheds light on the intricate processes by which strategy translates into battlefield topics, heads to Washington D.C. with a few pit stops on the way back to Stanford.
The course delves into the decisions and lives of the often-overlooked officers and foot-soldiers on the front lines and directly engaged in battle. By shifting the lens from generals to foot-soldiers, the course uncovers the complexities of strategic decision-making and its profound impact on individuals.
While in D.C., students are given the unique opportunity to connect historical knowledge with the ever-evolving landscape of national security policy by also engaging with experts and policymakers. Following D.C., students head to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and the Little Bighorn battlefield in Montana to explore motivations and decisions made during battle. Students embark on “staff rides” developed by the Prussian Army in the 19th century and later embraced by the U.S. Army, offering a tangible connection to history.
“I was surprised by how emotionally impactful the battlefield staff rides were. I’m not a veteran, and I don’t know anyone who was killed in action, but I got genuinely choked up when we were walking the mile of Pickett’s charge,” says Ellie Greyson, Face of Battle student.
In the span of two weeks, Honors College and Face of Battle created a bridge between the world of academia and the world of policy, allowing students to envision and shape a future where international security is not just the topic for a last-minute assignment, but a field where they can actively influence change. These experiences equipped students with the knowledge and real-world insights needed to tackle the complex challenges of international security policy in the 21st century.