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The country is adjusting to a new Presidential administration, and with any change, comes uncertainty. The ability for one to adapt to different situations and environments is a desirable attribute and strategic advantage no matter the industry or career path one chooses.
Adaptability is exactly what is being taught and simulated in the Washington Policy Design Studio course offered by the Rule of Law & Governance Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
Based in Washington, D.C., the Policy Design Studio enables ASU Law students to draw on the extensive foreign and security policy expertise of McCain Institute leaders, for a full semester of intensive class work in the art of foreign policymaking, and complete an internship in the policy community.
Seven law students, two former U.S. ambassadors and a litany of government agencies, are what make up this spring’s cohort. The students’ task is to form a U.S. embassy team for a specific country and manage a reality-based diplomatic agenda.
The students are assigned the actual roles of embassy team members, and together with their “ambassador,” practice how U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the rule of law sector, is developed and executed in the field.
This semester, the course will deal with U.S. relations and its strategic partnership with Turkey.
“Each week we have a country team meeting to go over key issues,” said Robert Bradtke, former U.S. ambassador and adjunct faculty teaching the course. “The idea is not to become experts in Turkey but rather to learn how to analyze, prioritize and develop strategies, and communicate those strategies in a very practical, real world kind of way.”
The course simulates what it is like to work inside an actual U.S. government agency as students are trained to react to scenarios based on real-time current affairs.
“The thing about this course is you never really know what’s going to happen. For example, if something were to happen in Turkey overnight, the ambassador would want us to address that issue in class, similar to if were working at an embassy in Turkey,” said Matt Rippentrop, a second year ASU Law student currently taking the course. “The need to adapt and be confident in yourself and your team is a unique skill I’m learning.”
Students are learning from faculty with decades of experience in dealing with foreign policy and national security issues. Faculty have held senior positions in the State Department and on the National Security Council.
“Ambassador Bradtke is full of knowledge as well as personal anecdotes and experiences that make it even more relevant and real,” said Jordan Brunner, also a second year ASU Law student enrolled in the course. “Because of that, he expects you to know what you are talking about. I like that teaching style. He’s not going to go easy on you.”
“I feel it is very important, perhaps more important than ever, for young people to engage in international affairs, whether in our government, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, or as private citizens,” said Bradtke. “Teaching this course, for me, is a way of encouraging some very bright young people to do just that. I was also told by the ambassador who taught the course last year that I would enjoy working with the students. He was right. It has been a great experience!”