Presentation Prep and DC Trip

Hello all,

Last week, I was plugging away working on my case. I received feedback from both my mentor and the case studies expert on a rough draft of my case, so I spent most of last week adding parts to my case to address their comments. In addition, I added to my slides that I had originally made for the Stab Ops preliminary presentation.

All of the interns are presenting this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, so I had to finish my slides. I’m thankful I had already done the majority for the Stab Ops presentation, because it meant I had less work to do.

Additionally, this Monday, PKSOI took all of us interns on a trip to DC. We met with a DIA agent and Pentagon employees of Foreign Disaster Assistance, as well as taking a tour of the Pentagon. In the afternoon, we met with a panel of USIP employees. Though neither of these are careers I was considering, several of the other interns want to work in intelligence, so they were happy to learn a little more about the sector. The Pentagon tour was really interesting– it’s hard to grasp how massive the building is until you walk through it. It has 25,000 employees every day, contains hallways three times the length of the Statue of Liberty, and contains enough foodstores to support its staff for 6 months in an emergency.

Monday was a very long day– the trip was 16 hours long, but it was fulfilling, interesting, and nice to get out fo the office for a day.

Presentation & Gettysburg

As a part of working at PKSOI, all interns give a presentation towards the end of the summer, briefing the office on our projects. This week, the Stability Operations sector had the 4 interns in the sector give a preliminary presentation, as an opportunity to collect feedback, work on presentation skills, and ensure clear delivery for our final presentation.

Though preparing for my presentation on Tuesday was slightly stressful, I found that the work to prepare my presentation helped me understand my case study better, and in presenting I received some valuable feedback on additional information to include in my final product, like a timeline of events covered in my case study. My presentation went well, which makes me more confident for my final presentation in 2 weeks.

Wednesday, the other interns and I were given a guided tour of Gettysburg by a PKSOI faculty member. Though I have already been 5 times, I learned a lot from our tour-guide’s in-depth information. We also walked Pickett’s Charge, in order to understand the attack, and after, he explained that Pickett’s Charge wasn’t as decisive or important as we think it is– that it was just the site of reunions for soldiers in years after the war, so its importance grew in pop culture through that way.

Nigeria Simulation

This week I participated in a table-top exercise on Nigerian Economic Stabilization and Infrastructure Development. USAWC Distance Education students were on campus this week, and several participated in this class, facilitated by my mentor.
This was the same type of simulation as the Venezuela Case Study that I’m working on, so I tried to learn from teaching methods used in this class to help me develop my case. On Tuesday the class developed an actor’s map, outlining assets, positions, measures, and messages for their role, and on Wednesday and Thursday, we worked collaboratively to find solutions to some of the challenges we identified in the Nigerian Economy.
My role was President of the African Development Bank, which presented an interesting challenge to me. In prior role-plays I’ve done, such as Model UN, it’s easy to just “discover” money and throw it at the problem (which works to a certain extent). However, the point of the exercise wasn’t to do this, but to learn to work collaboratively, so I had to be more creative in my contributions. For example, I worked out an agreement with the Nigerian Minister of Transport, to implant an AfDB counter-corruption expert on each project, with the intended result of increasing accountability and transparency, reducing corruption, and creating more faith by future lenders in Nigerian transportation infrastructure.
Finally, Thursday afternoon, the class held a press conference, outlining our progress made in certain areas, with commitments by different stakeholders. I found the press conference to be a good way to wrap up the exercise, with participants explaining the tangible steps they have taken during the simulation. I plan on incorporating a similar conference in my case study.
In fact, next week, the other interns in the StabOps division and I are running through a rough draft of our final presentations. As a result, I am working on elaborating the actors that will take part in my simulation, with positions Tier 1, 2, and 3, of positions to be filled by participants based on the size of the class.

Week 6

Hi Everyone!

This week was short for me, because I had Monday and Tuesday off due to the holiday.  I spent this week working on some minor projects I had been tasked with by others in the PKSOI office.

One of the other interns in the office is developing a matrix intended to identify groups that were solely terrorist, groups that were solely transnational crime, and groups that fell somewhere in between. Her mentor asked me to help out by filling in the information I’d learned writing about Nigeria in the Boko Haram sheet, so I spent the better part of the day filling this out and finding sources to verify my assessment.

My work on Thursday was hampered by the hour-long USAWC-wide tornado drill, during which I had to hang out in the basement while the “tornado” wreaked havoc on Carlisle Barracks. Thursday and Friday I worked on a summary of the conference I mentioned in my last post, for publication in PKSOI’s quarterly journal. I struggled a little bit identifying the important information because conference participants talked much more than they did anything tangible. Much of the work was trawling through my notes I took this spring, identifying the curriculum that had been agreed upon (at least in theory) by participants, and summarizing them.

Case Study Workshop

Last week I participated in a case-writing workshop, which helped me understand the context of my new project and how it could be beneficial to the PKSOI office. My mentor brought Dr. Volker Franke, who I met in the spring when he was a participant in the Working Group at a conference I helped to facilitate, to the Army War College to teach a three-day workshop on writing and teaching case studies.

Day 1 of the workshop, Dr. Franke walked the 7 other participants and me through several case studies, demonstrating the types– historical, fictional, decision-forcing, etc. His sources also demonstrated clearly the impact of storifying a scenario– one short case study we read placed the students in the mindset of a child soldier who was forced to make an awful decision. Though the case study was only a couple of pages, it was extremely effective at making us understand the dilemma from another perspective. During Day 1, I realized that my project was not so much to offer solutions for the crisis in Venezuela, but to explain the situation, and set up the scenario for students in a classroom to collaboratively work towards solutions.

Our homework was to show up on the second day with an introduction to our case study written. I already had some background information from prior weeks written down, so I worked on fictionalizing some future occurrences in order to set up the role-play exercise at the right moment. I learned from my case study and others that role-play case studies are essentially model UN scenarios. As I did Model UN in high school, this gave me a base to build off of.

Day 2 was centered around how to write teaching notes so that case studies could be taught by others, and the teaching notes are as important as the case itself.

Finally, Day 3, we all presented the work we had achieved thus far, and discusses how we would teach the case study. With input from other participants, I decided to run my case study like a Model UN crisis committee– that is, all the students are working towards the same goal, but the instructor will throw wrenches in the works to simulate challenges that the actors will have to deal with.

On the whole, the workshop was extremely helpful– I learned how to write and teach case studies, I experienced their efficacy, and it helped me to what my new project is, why I’m doing it, and how best to execute it.

Week 3

Happy Friday,

I entered this week thinking about a few things in my Nigeria paper I needed to wrap up, and ready to begin seriously working on Venezuela. However, I kept finding more information I wanted to add, and so I likely have a few days left on Nigeria. I mentioned this to some PKSOI employees, who said they always feel the same way– nothing’s ever fully finished, but eventually you have to say “good enough” and move on.

PKSOI staff hosted a picnic for the interns on Tuesday, which was nice. I appreciated the free lunch, but also the chance to sit down and chat with various PKSOI members with whom I hadn’t talked extensively before. My apartment this summer doesn’t have a grill, so the burgers and brats tasted especially good.

This Thursday was our first professional development session, which PKSOI hosts about once weekly for the interns, to introduce us to some different ways of thinking through different speakers. This week the Commandant of Carlisle Barracks (Major General Rapp) came to speak to us, and he stressed that by the end of the internship, we should know less than we did before, as we understand that there are more questions than answers, and complexities to that which we thought we knew. It was good advice, and made me think of the famous Socrates quote, that “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”

Simon

Week 2

Hello everyone,

I’m in the process of wrapping up my Nigeria work, and my mentor has given me essentially free reign to consider further research topics. So whenever I hit a mental block last week (which happened a fair amount), I would spend some time brainstorming potential research topics.

By the end of the week, I had three potential topics, so I met with my mentor to discuss which one I should research. We ended up deciding on the Economic Stabilization plan for Venezuela, which I’m excited to begin work on.

Venezuela is different than the other case studies my mentor uses in his lessons like South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria because it has been a relatively successful and peaceful country. However, recently the government’s socialist policies have brought the economy to a collapse– the nation has no foreign reserves, hospitals are in third-world conditions with infants and other patients dying constantly of treatable conditions due to a lack of medicine, and supplies throughout the country are scarce.

The whole situation is the result of the collapse of the price of oil, which was used to fund the entire economy. However, the situation has yet to devolve into violence, with most citizens protesting peacefully for a change in government. I have a theory that violence and instability are not the result of absolute poverty, but of relative poverty compared to the past. In other words, Venezuela is very vulnerable to instability unless the economy improves.

When I start this project, I hope to develop a full plan for stabilization, with specifics on how the US can help, what our level of involvement is, etc. Of course, this plan would only happen upon request of a (likely new) Venezuelan government.

Simon

Week 1 and Welcome

Hello all,

I am interning at the US Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute at Carlisle Barracks this summer, conducting research into Economic Stabilization and Infrastructure Development in Nigeria.

During the Spring Semester, I interned here, and began work on the topic, but felt there was more I could do, so I came back for more. My research is relatively independent, though I do check in periodically with my mentor for guidance and affirmation.

My mentor teaches classes at the Army War College, and last week was the final week of electives for students before they graduate, so I was fortunate enough to sit in on three different class sessions for two separate electives, both of which were using Nigeria, among other countries, as case studies for Economic Stabilization Operations.

On Thursday, the class split into small groups, preparing to present on stakeholders in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala). Naturally, I joined the Nigeria group, and learned from the students, who had a very strong methodology in approaching the task. To my surprise, because I had spent more time researching Nigeria, I was able to contribute factoids that could help clarify the group’s arguments for including certain stakeholders.

Classes are now over until July, so I will spend all of my time finishing up my paper and developing my next research topic. I do have a couple of ideas that popped up in class discussions that I think would be interesting to pursue, so hopefully within the next week or two, I’ll be wrapping up my current project and diving deeply into the next one.

Simon