SIMULEX 2010

Being in DC has its joys and its drawbacks. But one thing that can’t be beat is the location – giving you access to everything DC has to offer as well as everything available in NY and Boston as well. I try to take advantage of that – and this weekend was a very good example of what being in the Korbel in DC program can afford a person.

I recently returned from Boston where I attended SIMULEX 2010 – a 2-day political-military simulation held by the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

You can read more about the actual details of the simulation here, so I’ll use this post to describe my impressions of the experience.

1. Attending SIMULEX 2010 was without a doubt one of the coolest things I’ve done in two years of graduate school. This kind of crisis-based real time simulation is critical to understanding how decision makers arrive at the choices they do. Until this experience I wasn’t fully cognizant of the incredible speed and quantity of information – media, intelligence and more, which forces those in power to make decisions very, very quickly. And perhaps more importantly – how the flow of this information is managed.

2. I was on and eventually headed the military team for NATO/EU. Which by itself was a problem because NATO and the EU aren’t the same organization. They parallel one another in many ways but in others they’re very different – namely the exclusion of Turkey, which is NATO’s second-biggest standing army, from political decisions taken in the EU. Without taking a position on the accession process of Turkey to the EU I can tell you that this quandary caused problems in the quick decision making necessary to meet the challenges posed by the crisis we faced at this year’s SIMULEX.

3. I’ve participated in other simulation at Korbel but this was without a doubt the most well-run and complex simulation any of the top-20 graduate schools in international relations run. SIMULEX is legendary because it has constantly evolved and because of the caliber of professionals who participate along with students. There were representatives from CIA, NSC, ODNI, NATO, every branch of the US and many European military orgs and many other institutions at the simulation. My team was composed primarily of fellow graduate students from Fletcher as well as a PhD student from Stanford and myself.

4. Running a successful simulation requires the use of software to enable smooth communication between the different teams as well as control. This is far more difficult than it looks – you’ve got numerous teams taking actions, issuing statements, requesting conferences (face-to-face and virtual) and messaging one another – all at the same time. In addition Control has to make decisions as to the actions of players (in order to keep the scenarios realistic teams can’t make wildly out-of-character moves – such as China using a nuclear weapon on Russia within the first round of play). Tufts uses some very cool software from the University of Maryland to manage this process.

The two-day process was extremely valuable in many ways. I feel like that one experience really helped me to be a better decision maker as well as a better, more focused student. I highly recommend that any students in the Korbel in DC program next year take advantage of SIMULEX – you won’t regret it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Daily… Day

One of the cool things about our DC program is the huge number and variety of places in which people intern in DC. A lot of people intern for the government including the US State and Commerce Departments, at think tanks like The Fund for Peace, the Stimson Center, Center for a New American Security and the Atlantic Council. Others intern for more politically left or right organizations like the Cato Institute or the Center for American Progress. Wherever you end up you often spend a lot of time at events with people from all over DC – and that’s just part of what makes being here such an intense experience.

No matter where we’re interning we’re all doing really amazing things through and for our jobs. I’m working on the development of a quantitative model to forecast “ripe moments” in state-to-state negotiations with my coworkers at my internship and my professor at George Washington Elliott’s School of International Affairs. Another Korbel internee at the US State Department is focusing on the threat of nuclear proliferation in his work, another internee working for a private lobbying firm recently visited the White House and attended Congressional Black Caucus events with her boss (and they didn’t sneak in either – they were invited ;-). Additional activities include taking notes for and escorting Richard Holbrooke: Department of State special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan,  meeting with trade delegations from India and the Czech Republic, attending meetings with former CIA chief Michael Hayden and attending events on population control programs in the third-world.

There is really no better place to make contacts, enrich yourself personally and academically and broaden your horizons than by attending the Korbel in DC program. And being here with people from school really makes the transition easier. You’ve got a built-in network in DC and we all help one another with internships, jobs, special expertise and more.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Life in DC

People are probably curious what our lives are like in DC. The answer isn’t simple – because all of us (the 23 DC cohorts plus a number of Korbel students attending other schools in DC and interning for the term) have very different schedules based around our internships and classes.

I work three days a week – full-time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I have class Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but only one of those classes is through the Korbel program – the other two are at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. I decided to take classes outside the program because of my interest in quantitative measurement involved in conflict forecasting as well as crisis diplomacy and GW offered great classes in both those areas. Korbel also offered a course in South Asian politics in which I was interested, so I combined that with my GW classes and now have a full load plus my internship.

The program is flexible enough to allow you to do what I’m doing. You also have the choice to take only classes at Korbel – it’s really your choice.

My internship involves working with an NGO which currently produces the Failed States Index and which has been primarily responsible for advancing methodologies designed to predict and prevent conflict. I work primarily on a project we’re involved in in which we produce background reports and crisis memos for a multinational organization on situations which have the potential to produce genocide. Recently I’ve written reports on Lebanon as well as the insurgency in southern Thailand – both of which are outside my main area of expertise (which is Turkey, the Balkans and Cyprus) but which forced me to learn and spend a lot of time researching. I tend to pick topics with which I’m unfamiliar – mainly because I like to be pushed outside my comfort zone (and as many of my fellow students can attest – I like to push others outside theirs as well).

I also attend a lot of meetings outside of my internship where I take notes and write memos for our staff. Examples of these include House hearings on human rights abuses in Papua New Guinea, round-table discussions at the Brookings Institution on the upcoming referendum in South Sudan and discussions on Hezbollah at the Center for American Progress. These are key networking events in DC – where relationships and contacts form a huge part of a person’s success.

I also spend a lot of time with my fellow students outside of class. I live with two other Korbel students in a huge house in Logan Circle/Shaw in Northwest DC. I often go out with other students and do all the things we normally do in graduate school – dance, drink and talk politics. We play a lot of Civilization, often make each other dinner and ponder our lives after school ends. We go to yoga, run and work on school projects as well.

DC is an amazing place which really helps you to put what you’re learning in school into practice. It’s exhilarating to sit down and write a memo which you know is going to be read by someone with a lot of influence – exhilarating and also scary because for the first time you’re actually going to be able to make your case and it’s possible someone may take your advice – so it had better be well-grounded, factual and devoid of hyperbole. Professional writing in the field of international relations is highly analytical and not expository and some people have a problem making that jump but doing so, and doing it well, is essential to one’s success.

I’ll post more later with details of what others in the program are doing. If you’re considering doing the program remember that applications aren’t due until next year but the program is highly competitive – this year only one out of every two applicants were accepted. So keep your GPA up and be nice to your professors, because their recommendations are key to getting you to DC.

Shane Hensinger

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hello From DC!

This is the first post from DC – where I’m currently attending class on the Josef Korbel School in DC program and interning. There will be lots more to follow. So stay tuned!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment