International relations simulation gives students negotiation experience

By Paul Sweeney

The School of International Affairs and the U.S. Army War College held an international relations simulation at the Lewis Katz Building on October 18 and 19. More than 40 students from SIA and the Law School participated in the simulation.
Professor Dennis Jett was responsible for organizing the two-day event. Jett said the simulation was a great way for students to gain an understanding of international negotiations.
“It's a very practical experience that gives students a lot of insight about how these things work in the real world and why they're so time consuming and complicated,” said Jett. “By the end of it, I think students will be bonding and identifying with their countries.”
The Center for Strategic Leadership Development within the War College develops education, training, and developmental exercises for the U.S. Army and government. They started taking the exercise to universities about ten years ago. The Center uses multiple scenarios, and this one dealt with a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Colonel Sam White is the Deputy Director at the Center for Strategic Leadership Development at the Army War College. He said the simulation is a chance for future international security professionals to be exposed to the United States Army.
“We're believers in experiential education and partnering with the top tier schools, and that's why we're here at Penn State,” said White.
In order to work out the conflict, students represented seven different countries: China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, and The United States. The majority of the teams were made up of SIA students. This year, however, the simulation was open to undergraduate political science and international relations majors and law school students.
Katie Klein is a third-year law student with an interest in international law. During the simulation, she acted as Japan's legal advisor. Klein said she took on a diplomatic and negotiation role for her team.
“We would have a strategy and go out and meet with different groups,” said Klein. “We were trying to gather information without giving anything up because we were a neutral party. I enjoyed that interaction and playing a role.”
Students started preparing for the simulation in September. They were required to take an online negotiation course, read briefing materials, and meet with their teams.
SIA student Natalie Cake represented Vietnam. Cake said the experience helped her apply what she learned in class to a practical situation.
“This simulation allowed me to throw my theory into gear and take responsibility for my decisions and the outcomes and reactions of other parties,” said Cake.
Faculty from the Law School and SIA also participated in the event. Ambassador Richard Butler, Penn State's Distinguished Scholar of International Peace and Security and Professor, acted as the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the simulation. To begin the exercise on Friday, Ambassador Butler addressed the “representatives” and emphasized the importance of a resolution to the problem. Students then began a series of team meetings and negotiation sessions. When students returned on Saturday morning, the resumed team meetings and negotiation sessions until the closing plenary session with the UN Special Representative.