Twenty Williams students, from different academic and cultural backgrounds, came together from June 13th to July 8th to participate in Williams’ second Summer Institute in Foreign Policy. The Institute, organized by Professor James McAllister, of the Williams Political Science Department, is an intensive four-week program, designed to encourage in-depth studies of America and the world. While students received a unique experience in the classroom, working collaboratively with each other and with the program’s professors, the group of twenty also forged important and lasting friendships by living and working together.
Timothy Brock (’14) was one of the Institute’s participants. Brock, an Economics and Chinese double-major, had always been interested in foreign policy but hadn’t been able to fit it into his schedule. The Institute was a way for him to study foreign policy in a relaxed environment without compromising his double major.
Although the academics were stimulating (as he had expected), Brock was surprised by he level of camaraderie that the group of students developed during their four weeks together. “Leaving was really hard,” Brock noted. “It reminded me a little of saying goodbye to my entry in June.” Radina Angelova (’13) also felt that the group experience was an important one. “Reading in the common room [of East dorm] reminded me of my entry, but better,” Angelova said. “This group was a self-selecting one. Everyone had the same aspirations and clicked really well.”
For Angelova, those aspirations are a career in foreign policy or international affairs. A Bulgarian citizen, Angelova participated in the European Youth Parliament, a program similar to Model UN, for three years during high school. In this sense, Angelova’s participation in the Institute was a return to what she knew. In other ways, the Institute opened new doors. “I was more comfortable speaking in class,” Radina said, “because I knew the people around me well.” Group trips to the Saratoga battlefield, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and even Professor Michael MacDonald’s house to watch President Obama’s report on Afghanistan, were all part of an experience that, for Angelina, would be difficult to come by during the academic year.
In the classroom, students considered events such as The Cold War, and facets of American foreign policy such as Wilsonianism. The group road-tripped to Saratoga, NY to understand the tactics of the Battle of Saratoga, a turning point in the American Revolution. Although not directly related to American foreign policy, this trip was eye-opening for students with little context in American history, particularly international students like Radina.
In the final week, students presented group work on nuclear disarmament. Three of the nation’s leading academics on the issue, Professors Daryl Press (Dartmouth), Frank Gavin (UTexas) and Joshua Rovner (Naval War College) attended, along with Professor Sam Crane of Williams and Williams’ President, Adam Falk.
President Falk was impressed with the students’ mastery of their subject by the end of four weeks. “The student presentations were extraordinary, both in their analytical sophistication and their overall professionalism,” noted Falk. “The questioning was sharp and incisive, and the students responded with wit and deft intelligence. I am very proud of our students and what they have accomplished.”
Professor McAllister plans to continue the Institute in summers to come. And students such as Brock (who is currently in China, continuing his study of this nation) and Angelova will take what they have learned in stride as they move forward in their academic careers.
McAllister, Brock, and Angelova emphasized the group experience above all. “The students were the best part. I knew five coming in, and made fifteen new friends by the end,” noted Brock. “I’ve rarely had that kind of sustained interaction with a small group of people, and it’s a great feeling to be in that environment.”