Two Students Attend Foreign Policy Conference at West Point

Two students attended the annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, which examined important policies and provided a glimpse of life at the famous military academy

West Point Military Academy taken from across the Hudson River in Garrison, NY.

United States Military Academy West Point (Adobe Stock)

Two University of Connecticut students attended the annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA), which was held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from Nov. 1 to 4. SCUSA is a four-day conference during which students work with scholars and practitioners to develop proposals that address important topics in United States foreign policy.

The UConn attendees were Madeline Peling ’24 (CLAS), a history and political science major from Granby, and Mario Boozang ’24 (CLAS), a political science major. They were nominated for the conference by the international relations faculty in the Department of Political Science, including professor Jeremy Pressman.

Mario Boozang, a senior political science major
Mario Boozang, a senior political science major (Contributed photo)

SCUSA is one of the largest conferences of its type and is attended by approximately 200 undergraduate students from over 100 institutions across the world. The event dates to 1949 and offers an opportunity to discuss foreign policy issues and develop a relationship between the military and civilians as participants live with the West Point Cadets during the event.

Students were assigned to groups and held discussions on a particular foreign relations topics. The groups then presented a paper on their topics to the entire conference.

Conference attendees also gathered to hear various speakers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry.

“It was really interesting to hear what others groups were discussing,” says Boozang, whose own group worked on the Middle East and the foreign policy of the United States moving forward. “We had delegates from all over the world, including Israel, Bosnia, and Syria, so there were many different perspectives.”

Peling’s group looked at international institutions in the global order and how to combat the declining influence of the United States in organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank.

“We came up with some substantive policy solutions to increase the power of the United States by focusing on our human rights records and climate change,” says Peling. “It was interesting to work with students from other areas of the country that have different political perspectives from Connecticut. Those students were very cognizant of how our policy proposals could be pushed back upon by people on different sides of the issues, which is not something everyone in our group would have considered otherwise.”

The two UConn students also gained an appreciation for life as a student at a military academy.

“We were immersed in what life is like at West Point,” says Boozang. “We got up with the cadets at 6:30 each morning and ate with them in their mess hall.”

Madeline Peling, a senior public policy major
Madeline Peling, a senior public policy major (Contributed photo)

“It was definitely a culture shock,” says Peling. “Their rules are a lot more rigid. If you don’t wake up on time for breakfast, you are not getting it, whereas I can roll out of bed at any time and go to the dining hall. I gained great respect for how the cadets live and it is definitely challenging.”

Peling is already working on master’s degree work in public policy as an undergraduate and will have her secondary degree next year. She hopes to get into a career involving education policy. Boozang hopes to get a master’s degree in political science and is interesting in working in Washington, D.C. He has already done an internship at the U.S. Capitol with U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney from Connecticut and a summer one in the home office of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton from Massachusetts.