Mercyhurst applied intel grad students compete for ‘15 Minutes with POTUS’

It’s billed “15 Minutes with POTUS” and it’s every intelligence analyst’s dream: to brief the President of the United States.

A team of three graduate students from the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University has been chosen as one of three finalists in the policy briefing competition sponsored by George Mason University’s (GMU) School of Public Policy.

David Krauza, Lisandra Maisonet-Montanez and Gregory Marchwinski II, advised by intelligence studies assistant professor Steve Zidek, will compete against students from Boston’s Northeastern University and the University of Michigan on June 14 at GMU’s Founders Hall in Arlington, Va.

“This competition allows our students to apply what they learn here at Mercyhurst to national security challenges currently faced by the President and his senior decision-makers in an open forum,” Zidek said. “Besides briefing former, very high-ranking government public servants, we get to measure our program with other finalists’ programs from University of Michigan and Northeastern University. Considering the prestige and size of these institutions, as well as the other alternative finalists from George Mason University and Syracuse University, Mercyhurst certainly punches way above its weight class.”

According to the contest directive: Imagine you’re a policy analyst at the National Security Council. You’ve been asked to prepare a decision memo on a matter to be decided by the President. This urgent matter was debated by the principal advisers to the President, but they were unable to come to a conclusion. The president has allocated 15 minutes for your briefing.

Mercyhurst’s group elected to do their briefing on “Deweaponization of Iran’s Nuclear Program: Potential Political Opportunities and Policy Options.” Northeastern will address “Policy Options in the Syrian Civil War” and Michigan will present “Dealing with North Korea: All Roads Lead through Beijing.” Two alternates, one from GMU’s School of Public Policy and the other from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, also were chosen.

As finalists, the three teams have earned the opportunity to display their briefing skills to high-level U.S. policymakers: the Honorable Charles S. Robb, former U.S. senator from Virginia, will assume the role of President; former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden, will be National Security Adviser; and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans Janine Davidson, will serve as Secretary of Defense. The panel will hear each presentation and decide the winning team, which receives a prize of $1,500.

The competition is designed to recognize the vital role that writing, presentation and analytical skills play in the real policy world and to recognize excellence in those skills. It is intended specifically to encourage the development of those skills among future policy analysts.





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