Georgetown Students Take On Syrian Conflict in Annual Crisis Simulation

Press release
Published November 21st, 2018 - 12:36 GMT
Students during the crisis simulation.
Students during the crisis simulation.

Despite the efforts of consecutive peace initiatives in Geneva, the Syrian conflict is now in its seventh year, with no signs of a political settlement between the warring parties. Taking on the role of key stakeholders in the ongoing conflict, students at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) took part in their own hypothetical Syrian peace conference through the university’s annual Crisis Simulation exercise, earning course credit and learning why peace and stability has remained elusive for so long.

“This is an unparalleled hands-on experiential learning activity for our students, giving them an understanding of what it takes to bring people with very different views to the table to resolve a conflict. These are critical life skills no matter which career path they pursue,” explained Dr. Christine Schiwietz, GU-Q assistant dean for academic affairs. Schiwietz co-organizes the simulation with James Seevers, director of studies at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in Washington, D.C.

During the course of one week, 28 GU-Q students attended a series of preparatory workshops including modules on the introduction to diplomacy and negotiation theory in advance of the simulation, which culminated in a day of bilateral and multilateral meetings. Working in teams, they sought to resolve key issues around the fate of the current regime and the opposition, the future of the Kurds, and the presence of foreign military troops.  

“We’ve done a series of simulations with students here in Doha over the years. I thought this was one of the very best ones in terms of their level of preparation and their engagement with the issues,” commented Seevers. “The diverse nationalities and background of the student body at GU-Q brings different perspectives to the negotiations.” 

Roland McKay, a Rusk fellow and career Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department, was a guest participant who lent his diplomatic expertise to the day of debate and strategic negotiations. Noting the common assumption that the most powerful player in a conflict has the upper hand, he said: “Some aspects of negotiation can only be grasped by actually doing it. At GU-Q’s Crisis Simulation, students learned how weakness can actually be a strength.” 

McKay previously served as a political officer with the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team and as a special assistant to Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. “It’s my first time on Georgetown’s Doha campus, and I was very impressed with the level of the students, and how quickly they grasped key power dynamics in the Syria conflict,” he added. 

For Amna Falah, a junior majoring in International Economics who represented the role of the U.S., the diplomacy exercise hit close to home. “Many of us share the desire to reach a solution as soon as possible in order to end the suffering of the Syrian people and refugees most affected by this horrifying war.”

Background Information

Georgetown University in Qatar

Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) is an additional location of Georgetown University, based in Education City in Doha. The University offers a four year undergraduate program in international affairs leading to the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) degree. Students have the opportunity to select one of four majors, a minor, and one of three certificates.

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