Carnegie Mellon University

Student Conferences

The Institute for Politics and Strategy regularly facilitates students' participation in undergraduate and graduate student conferences. Conference opportunities are publicized throughout the school year, and students should express their interest in conferences early as spaces are quickly filled.  

Two International Relations and Politics Majors, Diana Crookston and Tristan Ohler, attend the 2022 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference

For a few days, Diana Crookston walked in her father’s shoes. 

Crookston’s father attended the Naval Academy in the 1980s before serving as a Navy SEAL. In May, Crookston, a junior majoring in International Relations and Politics, and Tristan Ohler, a sophomore IRP major, attended the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference, an event that brings hundreds of undergraduate students from around the world to the Academy’s Annapolis, Maryland campus for a discussion of global affairs.

“I hadn’t visited the Academy in over a decade, so it was a really special experience, being able to walk the halls that my dad walked and gain insight into the type of lifestyle he experienced as a Midshipman,” Crookston said. 

diana-crookston-tristan-ohler-naval-academy-conference-3x2-min.jpgDiana Crookston and Tristan Ohler attend the 2022 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference

This year’s theme was “Partnership in the 21st Century: Aligning Values and Interests in a Multipolar World.” Speakers included Dr. Hal Brands, Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; John R. Allen, a retired four-star Marine General and the president of the Brookings Institution; and John Inglis, the country’s first National Cyber Director.

I saw this conference as an opportunity to connect with a group of my peers that had vastly different experiences than my own, and to understand their point of view on current issues regarding the US, as many of us will likely see each other in the future in our careers,” Ohler said. “This conference also gave me the chance to hear from speakers from all walks of life regarding both their military experience and knowledge and advice regarding national security.”

Ohler’s grandfather regaled him with lessons learned from serving in Vietnam, which contributed to an interest in the United Nations and foreign affairs in general. At the conference, Ohler participated in a roundtable discussion titled “The Changing World Order Through the Eyes of Xi Jinping,” a perfect fit for him because of his background in Mandarin Chinese, that discussed Chinese hostility toward the western world and how to bridge the divide between the two nations. 

“The conference was an amazing experience to have as a delegate from the IPS department at CMU, and I truly value the knowledge and connections I made during this event,” he said.

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Crookston and Ohler met students from Germany, Peru, Ukraine, Belgium, Poland, and Greece, and discussed the war in Ukraine, great-power competition, and the influence of domestic politics on the way America acts internationally.

“Going to NAFAC was one of the greatest experiences I've had through IPS and CMU, and I am very appreciative that I was selected as one of the students to attend,” Crookston said.

The Institute for Politics and Strategy is proud to facilitate the attendance of conferences for its students. In the past, students have attended the US Air Force Academy Assembly, The Alexander Hamilton Society Student Leadership Conference, the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network Summit, and the Defending Digital Democracy Project Hackathon, hosted by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. For more information or to learn about opportunities to attend a conference, contact IPS Deputy Director Emily Half.

US Air Force Academy Assembly in Colorado Springs

In 2021, IPS students Sam Abodo, Audrey Pederson, and Arjun Ramachandran attended the US Air Force Academy Conference, an annual event that has provided an opportunity for undergraduate students to discuss contemporary topics.

Audrey Pederson Arjun Ramachandran Sam Abodo
Audrey Pederson Arjun Ramachandran Sam Abodo
Audrey Pederson Arjun Ramachandran Sam Abodo

Fictional problem sets with real-world applications

The town of Rodgersville had a problem. It planned to build a tidal power plant just off the coast, and residents were concerned – about beachfront property, tourism, and the environment.

Julianne Tippett needed to earn the approval of 75 percent of Rodgersville residents, so she got creative: She focused her efforts on those most likely to answer the poll.

“There’s a lot of discrepancies in polling,” Tippett said. “We didn’t only focus on the numbers.”

This was the task that Tippett, a rising senior at Carnegie Mellon University who is majoring in Ethics, History, and Public Policy with a minor in International Relations and Politics, faced in the 2021 Media Plan Case Competition, an event hosted in Washington, DC by the Washington Media Scholars Foundation that went virtual this year because of the pandemic. Tippett and her partner, childhood friend Nervana Fadle, advanced to the finals, earning them $500 scholarships.

“I tried to use the things that I learned in Behavioral Economics because even though you have a really high GRP rating [gross rating points, a metric to measure the reach of a campaign], even if people see the ad, that doesn’t necessarily mean the ad is going to affect them,” Tippett said. “I was trying to look at psychology and look at how people best respond to ads, what mediums they respond to the best.”

Participants in the competition attended four days of meetings with executives from The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Spotify, Hulu, Google, and Tegna, a broadcast media company. 

“I think Tegna was the most inspiring. The head of multimedia journalism was there and he was really inspiring because he said that he didn’t necessarily care about peoples’ backgrounds,” said Tippett, an aspiring journalist. “He was just looking for energetic young people who are passionate about news and telling stories.”

Julianne Tippett

Alexander Hamilton Society Student Leadership Conference

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Millie Zhang and Nick Bellante attended the annual Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, for the second consecutive year. AHS is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, national organization that inspires and educates students in the importance of American leadership in the world and launches them into careers in public service, academia, and business. During the 2019 conference, they attended panels by and networked with national security, foreign policy, and economic statecraft professionals in organizations ranging from nonprofit global policy think tanks. This year, Millie Zhang was also featured on a student panel.

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Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) Summit

Anna-Jamieson Beck, senior BHA student studying Politics and Public Policy and Drama, attended the 2019 WREN Annual Summit in Columbia, South Carolina. WREN is a South Carolina-based network whose mission is to build a movement to advance the health, economic well-being, and rights of South Carolina’s women, girls, and their families. The theme of the conference was “The Time is Now," and focused on creating change and opportunity for all South Carolina women. During the conference, Anna-Jamieson attended workshops about childcare and women’s economic empowerment, thinking beyond the criminal justice response to domestic and sexual violence, and business and policy solutions for pay equity. There was a keynote conversation with WNBA star A’ja Wilson and other speeches and panels from female state leaders. 
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Defending Digital Democracy Project’s (D3P) Information Operations Technical and Policy Hackathon

Hackathon

Carnegie Mellon University students Kellen Carleton and Arya Hezarkhani placed third in the policy category and concept category of the Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P) Hackathon hosted by Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Following submission reviews, Carleton and Hezarkhani were selected to attend the conference as finalists in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 29, 2018. They won $1000 in prizes for each category they placed in.

Read more about the conference experience.