Military conference a success

By Patrick Boyle

It’s not very often that undergraduates get to “sit at the adult table” to present their work alongside their professors. Typically, academic conferences are strictly reserved either for undergraduates, or for those with letters after their names. The War and Security Conference, held annually by the student-run University of Calgary Society for Strategic and Military Studies, deviates from the norm by encouraging all academics to present papers.

“Presenting at the conference allowed me to share my work in a highly academic arena,” said fourth year Political Science Honours student Meagan Blake, who discussed the UN’s role in East Timor at one of the weekend’s 18 panel discussions. “My ideas were critiqued by both my peers and more traditional members of academia. This kind of setting gives rise to a higher level of debate than that which is found at undergraduate conferences.”

Roughly 100 conference attendees heard a variety of opinions from experts in the field including Colonel Russell Howard, Head of Political Science at the United States Military Academy, West Point. As both an academic and a highly decorated soldier, Col. Howard was a fitting keynote speaker. Striding confidently back and forth amongst the members of his audience at Calgary’s Aerospace Museum, the colonel gave an engaging speech about “The New Terrorism.” Some listeners were vocal about their disagreement with the obvious pro-American undertones of the speech, but all agreed that Col. Howard was an excellent and engaging orator.

Another of the conference’s keynote speakers pulled out just days before the opening ceremonies. Major-General Cameron Ross cited Hans Blix’s presentation at the UN Security Council as a reason for his absence; however, the situation was further clarified on Saturday, when national newspapers announced Ross’s retirement.

“It was not a good day at the office when we received word that Maj.-Gen. Ross would not be able to speak at the conference,” said Jean-Pierre Marchant, co-chair of the weekend’s proceedings. “Fortunately, Public Affairs at the Department of National Defence was able to make some last-minute arrangements and we were able to bring in Major Jamie Robertson and Colonel Bill Cleland instead.”

According to Marchant, the conference will continue its current growth, striving toward its objective of disseminating information about historical and contemporary security, while making the event as accessible as possible by welcoming the general public without charging admission. Those who attend the event in years to come can expect a longer conference, more social events, and a more diverse audience including high school students.

“This conference provides a unique and beneficial opportunity for the U of C,” said Dr. Joel Sokolosky, Dean of Arts at the Royal Military College, Kingston. “It’s great for [undergraduate] students to have a chance to present their work to the academic community at a conference like this. It really applies a lot more pressure than simply submitting papers in class.”

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