World Affairs Councils of America National Conference Scholarship Testimonial

Last week the Tennessee World Affairs Council announced a scholarship program for the 2015 National Conference of the World Affairs Councils of America. It provides 25 students from the WACA network — including the Tennessee Council — an opportunity to attend by awarding a free registration (worth about $500) and a stipend for $1,000 to cover transportation, lodging and related expenses. [Check here for details.]

In 2014 the nominee from the Tennessee World Affairs Council was selected by WACA to be among the 25 scholarship participants at the conference. Here is Colleen Ryan’s post-conference report for you consideration.

The deadline for applications is September 25th.

Please pass this to students who may be interested.

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World Affairs Councils of America: National Conference Report

Attending the World Affairs Councils of America’s National Conference was a tremendous experience. Though a great number of events were packed into two and a half short days, I learned a lot, not only from the panels but from interacting with other students, from members of the network of World Affairs Councils, and from invited guests.

Of the many plenaries, I had expected to gain the most from the Africa’s Transformation session; and I certainly did. The quantitative economics side to Africa’s development is a significant aspect often under-considered in undergraduate development coursework, and thus getting to hear Drs. Gilpin, Sy and Moss discuss developmental economics of Africa each from their unique viewpoints was very beneficial to my understanding of the challenges and the potential that the continent faces. Moderator Karen Attiah did a good job of focusing on issues from across the continent, without being reductionist in her sense of Africa, and it was certainly a good panel.

However I was surprised that I believe I gained the most from the Youth, Jobs and Social unrest panel. A lot of what the panelists discussed, particularly Dr. Morris’s additions about youth in conflict and peacebuilding, resonated with my research in Northern Uganda and the difficulties of post-conflict societies in providing ample opportunities for young people to be involved in the reconciliation and reconstruction processes. The topic was also very relevant to large-scale world events such as the Arab Spring, and with the youth bulge Global South regions like the Middle East and South Asia face in the coming decades, the panel’s subject matter is only increasing in relevance.

2014 WACA National Conference Vali Nasr Paula Dobriansky Keynote Alex Lari

I was also surprised at how much I gained from the sessions on the Future of Education and Food, Water and Climate; and in general, I appreciated how varied each of the sessions’ experts were, even within the same field. It seemed each plenary had experts from a variety of sectors and disciplines, which added greatly to the perspectives given.

Hearing from General David Perkins on the future of the US Army and the role of the Training and Doctrine Command in determining US military policies provided an interesting new perspective on militarization and US interventionism.

I also greatly enjoyed Dr. Moisés Naím’s keynote on The End of Power. I was quite familiar with Dr. Naím’s columns, but had not read The End of Power and found his words on power structures and changing dynamics particularly useful, especially with regards to the event series on structural violence I have been organizing at my university.

The Young Professionals Program opportunities offered the chance to network with one another as well as meet experts and practitioners in the field of foreign policy. The visit to the State Department complete with a career briefing and a tour of the Faces of Diplomacy exhibit was a particularly neat experience to learn more about careers in both the civil and foreign service and to meet and speak with actual career State Department officials about their experiences.

Though it was a busy couple of days, I certainly gained significant experience, knowledge and connections during the World Affairs Council National Conference and am very thankful for the opportunity.

Colleen Ryan is a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is a Global Studies major and a member of the Haslam Scholars honor student program. 


The World Affairs Councils of America is the largest non-profit grassroots organization in the United States dedicated to educating and engaging Americans on global issues with nearly 100 councils across 40 states reaching more than half a million people a year. (More Info)

The mission of the Tennessee World Affairs Council is: To promote, on a non-partisan basis, understanding of important international issues, throughout the community and with a special focus on the region’s schools.


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