Dr. James Anderson is a professor of international and security studies at the Marshall Center.
How many American citizens have had the privilege of asking Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia direct questions? The answer is not many. But our Marshall Center students of the Program in Advanced Security Studies had exactly this opportunity earlier this week while visiting the Supreme Court — and it proved to be one of the highlights of their Washington field study trip.
The faculty team designed this trip to provide the students with a deeper understanding the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as their respective roles in national security.
Our week-long itinerary included visits to the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, the National Security Council, Congress, the Newseum, and the Supreme Court. The students learned about the vital role of these organizations play in addressing national security challenges. Many of the speakers noted the importance of inter-ministerial coordination, emphasizing that agencies and departments must work together if they are to have any hope of countering evolving security threats such as international terrorism and cyber attacks.
Two factors helped make this week a success. First, we asked our speakers to address the theme of building partnership capacity with our friends and allies in Europe and Eurasia. This unifying theme provided much-needed focus to our field study, since we visited numerous ministries with different missions and responsibilities.
Second, we structured the program so that the students would have ample time to ask questions. A number of senior officials complimented our students for asking challenging questions. This type of give-and-take interaction is essential to active learning and the development of critical thinking skills.
Student feedback on the trip has been very positive thus far. For their part, the students have weathered the challenges of international travel – and Washington DC traffic — with good humor and poise. Ultimately, of course, it is the students themselves who make the trip a success with all their enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity. – James H. Anderson