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Policy Brief Competition Brings Carolina Students and Alumni Together

May 6, 2022
UNC Global Affairs
A group of students, faculty and alumni gather for a group photo in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium

Students, staff and alumni gather for a policy brief competition and panel discussion on diplomacy at the FedEx Global Center Nelson Mandela Auditorium on April 22, 2022. (Photo by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/UNC-Chapel Hill)

As part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s inaugural Diplomacy Week, four students were announced as winners of the 2022 Policy Brief Competition, a competition designed for students to propose compelling solutions to the same global challenges that policy analysts, diplomats and world leaders are working to address.

Cordelia Gilligan, political science and history double major, Chaeyoung Oh, linguistics major, Gabrielle Tedder, global studies major and Paola Andreu, political science and women’s and gender studies double major, were unanimously selected as winners by a panel of alumni judges for their policy brief titled, “The Future of NATO Cybersecurity Training: Cyberwarfare Games.” All four students participated as part of POLI/PWAD 459H: Trans-Atlantic Security class, taught by Bob Jenkins, teaching professor in the political science department.

Three students speaking at a podium.
Sahra Ranjani, Sydney Simpson-Vos and Josephine Davis receive an award. The competition was judged by alumni Jennifer Davis, Kate Hewitt and Erin O’Conner Minthorn. (Photo by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/UNC-Chapel Hill).

The alumni judges were Jennifer Davis ‘90 and J.D ‘94, a U.S. Foreign Service officer and non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Kate Hewitt ‘17, public affairs specialist at National Nuclear Security Administration; and Erin O’Connor Minthorn ‘06, senior director for government affairs at Resilience. They shared feedback with selected finalists at an awards ceremony on April 22.

“As a diplomat who served at NATO, I can tell you that one of the things that surprised me is that the paper is written the way that the international staff at NATO would write a policy brief,” said Davis.

Hewitt praised the winning team’s attention to visuals. “It is the most beautiful policy brief I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Certificates laid out on a table
Winners, finalists and semi-finalists received certificates at the award ceremony. (Photo by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The judges were also thoroughly impressed by the 16 submissions from 28 finalists and semi-finalists taught by Jenkins, Erinn Whitaker (PWAD 250: Introduction to Peace and Security Studies), Tricia Sullivan (PLCY 110: Global Policy Issues), Navin Bapat (POLI/PWAD 444: Terrorism and International Peace), and Ted Leinbaugh (PWAD/CMPL 489H: Empire and Diplomacy).

“Students, don’t underestimate the value of an opportunity like this one,” said Barbara Stephenson, Carolina’s vice provost for global affairs, as part of the event’s opening remarks. “The knowledge that you’ve gained and the skills that you’ve sharpened in critical analysis, concise and compelling writing, and creative problem solving will equip you, the next generation of global leaders, to address the grand challenges of our time.”

After the awards ceremony, the three alumni judges shared their insights on the journey from Carolina to careers in international affairs as part of a panel Q&A session hosted by Katie Lindner, executive director of Carolina’s Center for European Studies.

Two women sitting at a table in front of an audience
Jennifer Davis speaks with Kate Hewitt for an alumni panel discussion (Photo by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/UNC-Chapel Hill).

This event capped off an end to the first annual Diplomacy Week, a week dedicated to exploring diplomacy through firsthand experiences, featuring speakers like former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and Carolina students and alumni.

Diplomacy Week is part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s growing Diplomacy Initiative, which expands opportunities for Carolina students and faculty to learn and teach about the role of diplomacy in solving global challenges. The initiative is led by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Vice Provost for Global Affairs Barbara Stephenson, a former U.S. ambassador and senior diplomat, in coordination with numerous academic departments, UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and area studies centers.

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