By Matt Hawkins

Before Olivia Lu ’18 and her colleagues could discuss global economic concerns, they had to define the phrase forgotten and aggrieved to kick off the annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs (SCUSA) at West Point. After two hours of dialogue that resembled congressional bickering, Daniel Webster’s definitions settled the conflict.

“We were the most combative group there. I loved it,” said Lu, a criminal justice studies, international studies and Spanish triple major from Morton, Ill. “We had a lot of strong-willed people, but we kept our conversation professional. Because of that, we considered a wide range of topics that made our presentation better.”

With one debate resolved, the group of a dozen students and cadets from Bradley, the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and other universities dove into deep conversations about economics policies’ impacts on less fortunate people around the world. Conversations stayed intense throughout the four-day conference as team members addressed global concerns they will face as they pursue careers in politics, international business and foreign affairs.

Lu’s roundtable was one of 15 at the four-day conference that devoted time to developing policy papers on a range of issues. Topics covered matters such as climate change, cybersecurity, foreign aid, terrorism, and the United Kingdom’s referendum to leave the European Union.

From the first heated conversation, Lu recognized her Bradley education equipped her to dialogue with students from the nation’s top schools. At one point, group members clashed over the best means for communities affected by significant job losses.

“My timidity disappeared,” she said. “It didn’t matter where I was from because I knew how to synthesize arguments and make helpful contributions.”

SCUSA also exposed students to army life. They lived in barracks with cadets and tasted the military’s disciplined lifestyle with early morning formations and regimented schedules. This provided valuable insight as future civilian leaders built relationships with people directly affected by foreign policy decisions.

“The trust needed between policymakers and the military is incredible because it affects the lives of these people,” she said. “As leaders, we want to make sure we don’t abuse that trust.”