“Teaching students about governmental structures, inter-agency processes, and national security measures, it is an important endeavor to ensure that students who aspire to be our nations future leaders are adequately prepared to handle the difficult challenges that await. I view the national security simulation provided for by the Mellon Foundation as a critical component toward this preparation. By bringing together a diverse set of academic skill-sets from both the Military Service Academies and Liberal Arts Colleges, this simulation lays the groundwork in establishing a familiarity and working relationship between students with differing skill-sets. The central lesson I took away from my time at this year’s exercise was that by combining the military’s focus and discipline with the liberal art college tendency to explore issues from more abstract and philosophical vantage points, our team was often able to creatively generate new and insightful ideas toward existing problems. The chain of command introduced to us in the simulation seemed to rely heavily on a process designed to guide participants toward arrival at the right solutions. Whereas for myself, I don’t believe so much in having a process as much as I believe in understanding how processes work, why and when they work, and also when they do not. The power to think abstractly, often debated as nothing more than wasting time and serving no practical purpose, is also the power to risk defiance of the system, provide new insights, and risk coming away with nothing all for the purpose of serving nothing more than a love of academic exploration. I found that many students seemed to be focused on solving problems simply for the practical purpose of solving them, rather than risk “wasting time,” understanding why something is even considered to be problem in the first place. I would like to see an increased focus on pushing the idea of a willingness to take risks by being unafraid to pursue an unconstrained academic line of thinking, but perhaps that is one of the reasons for inviting liberal arts students such as myself to the exercise. That being said, l was able to learn a great deal about the discipline and dedication of students from the Military Service Academies that I would have otherwise not obtained. I also enjoyed talking problems over with the members of our team, especially the exceptionally gifted faculty and military advisors. I was able to learn a lot from others simply through observation and engagement, and I hope that the people with whom I worked were able to learn from me as well.”

-Sidney Johnson, Vassar College 18’