Secrets, Spies, and (Bow)Ties : National Collegiate Security Conference (NCSC) XLII Recap

by arhoades on November 6, 2014

From October 23-26, 2014, the Georgetown International Relations Association hosted its forty-second session of the National Collegiate Security Conference (NCSC) in Bethesda, Maryland. This year, the theme of the conference was covert action (and the deceit and duplicity that comes with the territory), with a focus on combating threats to life, liberty, and property. Opening Ceremonies kicked off with a video put together by the NCSC Secretariat that set the stage for the conference by reminding delegates that they must be diligent in protecting their privacy and intellectual property in an age of pervasive (and often invasive) technology. This theme was driven home through remarks by Keynote Speaker David R. Shedd, the Acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and, incidentally, an alum of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Director Shedd provided delegates with insights from his wealth of experience from serving in various capacities in the intelligence community and crafting intelligence strategy and policy on the national level. This discussion provided the perfect segue into the topics the delegates would be confronting in committee.

Acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency David Shedd speaks to delegates at Opening Ceremonies. (Photo Courtesy of NCSC Press)

Acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency David Shedd speaks to delegates at Opening Ceremonies (Photo Courtesy of NCSC Press)

This year, NCSC offered a total of eighteen committees comprised of a unique assortment of international bodies, including large assemblies such as the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates (1809), mid-sized forums such as the Commonwealth of Nations (1960), tight-knit cabinets such as the U.S. National Security Council (2002), and Joint Crisis Committees such as al-Shabab vs. AMISOM in the Somali Conflict (2006). Following NCSC tradition, each committee, even the larger assemblies, was crisis-oriented in nature and focused on an international security issue. This international diversity was a key motif throughout NCSC, and it manifested itself in both the staff and delegate body of the conference, as well as in the committee selection and the conference programming. While over 1,000 delegates from across the United States and North America came to attend the conference, the NCSC staff and Secretariat focused on creating opportunities for each and every delegate to participate on an individual level.

A snapshot of the diverse, internationally-oriented committees offered at NCSC.

A snapshot of the diverse, internationally-oriented committees offered at NCSC.

On Thursday, a select group of delegates was given the chance to engage in a smaller “meet and greet” with Director Shedd, in which they were able to chat with him in a more informal setting and ask him any personal questions they had. The second day of the conference, October 24, 2014, marked the 69th anniversary of the ratification of the United Nations charter; in the most sincere form of celebration, delegates threw themselves into their respective simulations—penning directives, engaging in fierce debate, and hustling to keep up with the fast pace of the crises thrown at them from all sides. In addition to Friday’s committee sessions, NCSC provided delegates with the chance to participate in tours of one of three embassies in nearby Washington, DC: Bulgaria, Afghanistan, or Burkina-Faso. Friday also marked the Seventh Annual NCSC Conference Leadership Summit, a forum through which Head Delegates and other leaders from NCSC’s participating teams were given the rare opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss any challenges associated with running their respective Model UN conferences. On Saturday, the conference also featured a marketing fair, providing delegates with the chance to explore various study abroad and graduate education options, as well as showcasing the sponsors of NCSC.

Crisis! Delegates in the Ad-Hoc Committee of the Secretary-General react to a crisis drop

Crisis! Delegates in the Ad-Hoc Committee of the Secretary-General react to an information drop.

As in years past, NCSC also gave delegates and staff the chance to participate in philanthropic efforts. The official charity of this conference was Keep a Child Alive, an organization established in 2002 dedicated to providing treatment, care, and support to families affected by HIV/AIDS. The charity is special in that it not only provides medicine to those afflicted by the disease but also a supportive community. Throughout the weekend, NCSC held a competition between committees to see which could raise the most for the cause, culminating in the winning committee receiving a “prize” on Sunday in the form of members of the NCSC Secretariat entertaining them with a hilarious performance.

More flags of the world: another view of the variety of committees offered at NCSC.

More flags of the world: another view of the variety of committees offered at NCSC.

NCSC Secretariat Interviews with Best Delegate

In the spirit of the conference’s covert theme, Best Delegate sat down with the NCSC Senior Staff to get the inside scoop and have them spill their secrets on the conference planning and running process. The Secretariat members may have been diverse in their MUN backgrounds, with some being veterans of the circuit and others preferring the logistical side of running rather than competing at a conference, but all were united by their dedication to NCSC. Each member of the Senior Staff had a wealth of valuable information and insight to share regarding their experience on the Secretariat; below are just some of the highlights from our interviews.

Members of the NCSC Secretariat pose as the conference begins  (Photo courtesy of NCSC Press)

Members of the NCSC Secretariat pose as the conference begins
(Photo courtesy of NCSC Press)

Preston Marquis, Secretary-General, imparted that one of the most important responsibilities of his position was building a strong team of chairs and crisis directors to run the various simulations NCSC offers, as the staff plays an integral role in shaping the delegates’ overall experience. Thankfully, he noted, the Georgetown International Relations Association provides no shortage of dedicated staff members who are all very well-versed and genuinely interested in the realm of international affairs. He emphasized how NCSC strives to take full advantage of its prime location near the nation’s capital by providing delegates with opportunities to engage with the DC scene and learn about foreign relations firsthand, such as through the inaugural set of embassy tours. Having served as the chair of the Muslim Brotherhood (one of the larger committees) during last year’s NCSC, Preston also made it a goal to formulate GAs that incorporated fast-paced crises while still maintaining the structural integrity of a traditional assembly. Ultimately, Preston believes that the success of NCSC lies in using innovative technology and enacting realistic crises to create a compelling world for the delegates to “inhabit” over the course of committee.

Best Delegate interviews Secretary-General Preston Marquis  (Instagram @bestdelegate, @ncsc_georgetown)

Best Delegate interviews Secretary-General Preston Marquis
(Instagram @bestdelegate, @ncsc_georgetown)

Brian Carden, Executive Director, also acknowledged that NCSC is characterized by difficult, fast-paced crises, so the committees and the team behind them had to be substantially strong. Coming from an international background himself (having lived abroad in Paris for many years), Brian found that Model UN is one of the best networking tools, both professionally and socially, as it brings together people from around the globe (even people that you may know from competing at conferences abroad and encounter again years later in a different part of the world). He explained that in the world of MUN, delegates are sure to find at least one other person who shares their interests, and the NCSC committees, with their wide range of topics, were specifically crafted to provide delegates with the means to pursue their interests and passions.

Best Delegate interviews Executive Director Brian Carden (Instagram @bestdelegate, @ncsc_georgetown)

Best Delegate interviews Executive Director Brian Carden
(Instagram @bestdelegate, @ncsc_georgetown)

Ashley Lozier, Chief of Staff, highlighted the rich cultural diversity of the NCSC staff and their ability to translate this (sometimes literally) into quality crises through using the staff’s various skills (such as the ability to put on a specific regional accent) to effect realistic courses of events in committee. Like several of her peers on the Secretariat, Ashley also came from a background of competing as a delegate in high school but shifted over to focus on the planning side in college MUN, and she conveyed the usefulness of having experienced both sides of the spectrum when crafting the delegate experience for NCSC participants.

Aaron Wen, Under Secretary-General of Assemblies & Summits, also drew upon his international background (having lived and studied in Shanghai, China, for much of his life) and his own experiences as a delegate to shape his vision for the NCSC delegate experience. As NCSC is primarily known for its smaller, fast-paced crisis committees, Aaron had the difficult task of reconciling elements of both crisis and GAs into the larger, more “traditional” bodies of NCSC. Aaron pointed out the importance of making the delegate experience as immersive and realistic as possible, and also spoke to the strength of having committee topics relevant to current events in which the delegates could grapple with modern issues that affect their own lives.

Jack Ludtke, Under Secretary-General of Councils & Regionals, faced a similar daunting task of meshing elements of crisis and GAs together to form cohesive, interesting committees, a feat he conveyed was accomplished through vast amounts of effort and very little sleep on the part of the entire NCSC staff. Jack also emphasized that one of the main goals of the Councils & Regionals committees was to focus on giving delegates the opportunity to practice policy-making and diplomacy, rather than dabbling in (often unrealistic or exaggerated) military strategy, as so many crisis committees are wont to do. A veteran of the MUN circuit, Jack highlighted that MUN is truly a community that allows delegates to connect with each other in an intimate way and to forge friendships through tackling the “trial by fire” nature of crisis committees together.

From left to right: Jeffrey Lin, Ashley Lozier, and Rahul Desai pose after their Best Delegate interviews

From left to right: Jeffrey Lin, Ashley Lozier, and Rahul Desai pose after their Best Delegate interviews

Simon Wu, Under Secretary-General of Cabinets & Boards, also drew upon his many experiences as a delegate to inform his goals as a member of the Secretariat, as he has been a long-time player on the MUN circuit, competing at conferences since 8th grade. Having served as a crisis staffer and director in previous sessions of NCSC, Simon recognized the importance of creating realistic, delegate-driven crises to spur debate along, even stepping into crisis roles himself when needed (i.e. as a British emissary to the Operation Walkure Committee). Ultimately, Simon conveyed that the aim of the NCSC Secretariat was to deliver a high-quality product that people genuinely care about.

Emma MacMullan, Under Secretary-General of Joint Crisis Committees, relayed that crisis committees, both from her own experience as a delegate and from a leadership standpoint, are excellent training for real, everyday life. She credits the various conferences and committees she has travelled to and competed at for teaching her about what makes a good committee, and in her role as USG of JCCs, she strove to synthesize these elements into the highest quality committees for NCSC. Emma believes that the best crisis committees are those that are constantly pushing both delegates and the staff to their limits and forcing them to adapt to the trajectory of committee, and she worked with her fellow staff members to fashion committees to fit this model. Reflecting back on the whole weekend, Emma said that the near-omnipotent experience of being in the crisis suite and knowing everything that was going on on both sides of every committee under her purview was one of the most rewarding and informative aspects of the entire conference planning experience.

Grace Kim, Director of Delegate Affairs, described her vision of NCSC as being a conference that pushes both the staff and the delegates to be the best that they can be. She believes that the crisis-oriented nature of the conference contributes to this sense of being pushed past your comfort zone, and that the pure intensity of every committee allows delegates and chairs alike to build upon their strengths and power through any weaknesses. Grace also highlighted the close relationship between NCSC and its location near the nation’s capital, pointing out that many of the committees, such as Blackwater USA, were enhanced by the proximity to this hub of government and intel. Finally, Grace wished to thank the entire Secretariat for working so hard together to turn the dream of NCSC into a reality.

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Matt Whang and Jeffrey Lin manning the NCSC Marketing Booth (Photo courtesy of NCSC Press)

Jeffrey Lin, Director of Events, drew upon his experiences travelling on the circuit to formulate social events for delegates to enjoy outside of committee. He identified MUN as not only an important avenue for professional networking, but for building a social network of friends and colleagues. To that end, he worked closely with the directors of marketing and media to make sure the delegates had fun both in and out of committee sessions, and came away from NCSC with lasting memories. He, too, pointed out the importance of being located near DC, and incorporating DC-based events (such as the embassy tours and delegate excursions into the city in their free time) into the conference programme. As a parting note, Jeffrey noted how amazing it was to look at the huge masses of people at Opening Ceremonies and realize that a comparatively small team of staff members had made such a monumental event happen.

Matt Whang, Director of Marketing, had a similar goal of crafting an enjoyable, memorable delegate experience at NCSC. As a student at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, Matt expressed that he enjoyed the logistical and operational side of MUN (a role he played at NAIMUN as well) more than being a delegate, though he has also competed at several conferences with Georgetown’s team. In his role as Director of Marketing, Matt made it possible for delegates to literally “take home a piece of the conference” in the form of tangible merchandise and souvenirs, thus working in tandem with the Director of Events to create lasting fond memories for all who attended the conference.

Best Delegate interviews Jack Ludtke, USG of Councils & Regionals, and Siddharth Sharma, Director of Operations Instagram: @bestdelegate, ncsc_georgetown

Best Delegate interviews Jack Ludtke, USG of Councils & Regionals, and Sidharth Sharma, Director of Operations
Instagram: @bestdelegate, ncsc_georgetown

Rahul Desai, Director of Media & Technology, competed as a delegate at NAIMUN, Georgetown’s high school conference, but has since focused his talents on the logistical side of conferences, where he believes his strongest skillset lies. This year, he played a major role in shaping the realistic nature of the crises throughout the committees. It was his goal to integrate innovative uses of technology (such as using Twitter to leak information or providing delegates with video and audio updates) into the committee experience, thus pushing the boundaries of the committee and blurring the line between the simulation and reality. Rahul recognized that there has long been an inherent tension between Model UN committees and the use of technology therein, but suggested that while allowing delegates the use of technology could certainly make committee proceedings more complicated, effectively integrated technology could also make for a vastly richer experience. In his capacity as Director of Media, Rahul used social media to document the delegate experience throughout NCSC to give them something to look back on after the conference, thus complementing the roles of the Directors of Events and Marketing. Rahul also emphasized the diversity and dedication of the staff, noting that the NCSC staff was fortunate enough to have experts on the most obscure of subjects, such as 1800s Japanese Naval Policy, which contributed to a truly immersive experience for NCSC staff and delegates alike.

Sidharth Sharma, Director of Operations, conveyed that he had learned a lot from his experience as a delegate at various conferences, and used these insights to craft the best possible experience for delegates at NCSC. As Director of Operations, Sidharth focused on creating an efficient, streamlined conference experience, fully integrating crises into all committees, and, in short, learning from last year’s NCSC experience to make this year even better. Like many of his peers, Sidharth highlighted the importance of having a security-focused conference like NCSC near Washington, DC, in that the staff were able to take advantage of resources such as Director Shedd and the nearby embassies. Finally, he acknowledged that no matter how much planning went into the conference (about 10-11 months), there were always unforeseen events that sprung up during the actual event (such as one delegate accidentally stapling his or her finger to a directive!), thus allowing him and the rest of the staff to deal with crises of their own. All in all, however, Sidharth was pleased to note that NCSC had gone as smoothly and successfully as possible.

***

After a whirlwind weekend of non-stop crises (both real and simulated), fierce debate, and the formation of lasting memories, another session of NCSC came to an exhausting but successful close.

From left to right: Members of the USMA at West Point, Florida International University, and Penn State Delegations pose with their awards after Closing Ceremonies

From left to right: Members of the USMA at West Point, Florida International University, and Penn State Delegations pose with their awards after Closing Ceremonies

Awards

Congratulations go to the following teams on their Delegation Awards:

Best Large Delegation: University of Chicago

The University of Chicago Delegation

The University of Chicago Delegation

Outstanding Large Delegation: Harvard University

The Harvard Delegation

The Harvard Delegation

Best Small Delegation: New York University

[Photo Unavailable]

Outstanding Small Delegation: Stanford University

The Stanford Delegation

The Stanford Delegation

Special Thanks

Best Delegate would like to thank the entire NCSC Secretariat and Staff for accommodating us during our liveblogging of the conference, and for taking the time to chat with us about the NCSC planning experience.

Social Media Coverage

For more conference coverage, check out our Facebook photo albums taken live at NCSC, and follow us on Instagram to see our posts from the conference!

Photo Albums:

Part I: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.988684561148006.1073741914.155988514417619&type=3

Part II: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.990425414307254.1073741915.155988514417619&type=3

Instagram: http://instagram.com/bestdelegate

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