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Release Date: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 11:10 AM
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By Sholnn Freeman
Office of University Communications
College Students from Across U.S. Gather at Howard to Learn Foreign Policy

WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2011) -- Sex trafficking, child soldiers, civil war, nuclear catastrophe and social-media driven revolution are among the hot topics of international affairs. A group of college sophomores from universities across the nation want to show that these issues are not the exclusive territory of high-ranking diplomats.

Twenty-five students recently completed the Sophomore Summer Policy Institute administered by the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation’s  Institute for International Public Policy and Howard University. The six-week program provides intensive training for college students interested in careers in international affairs.

“The program gives Howard an opportunity to show what it can do to prepare students for careers in international affairs,” said Dr. Jeanne Toungara, Howard’s assistant provost and director of the Sophomore Summer Policy Institute.

During the program, Howard professors taught courses that addressed global economics, international relations, research methods and writing. Students heard from guest speakers, including retired Major General Arnold Fields, the former Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Fields, who was in charge of overseeing $56 billion in Afghan reconstruction, spoke about the cost of military and civil operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The students visited the U.S. Department of State, and met with executive branch officials and with leaders of organizations such as Africare, a 40-year-old non-government organization that has over 200 programs serving families and communities in 25 nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

For their final session, teams of students presented research findings to a jury of  ambassadors, which included Ruth A. Davis, the first African-American career ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service; Sylvia Gaye Stanfield, former ambassador to Brunuei Darussalam; and Aurelia E. Brazeal, a former ambassador to Ethiopia; and Shirley E. Barnes, former ambassador to Madagascar.

The teams addressed a number of human rights questions, including how human rights relates to anti-terrorism, trade policy, immigration policy and ethno-nationalism.

In a question-and-answer period, Ambassador Davis asked a team of students that addressed foreign aid policy if the two countries that until last month made up the Sudan were headed for war.  

 “Most of the natural resources are in the south,” said Pablo Tutillo, who studies social sciences and international studies at Connecticut College. “Based on what I read, it’s not unlikely. The reason why they would turn to violent conflict is control of natural resources.”

Members of one team described child soldiering in African states torn by civil war. They said young fighters are often lured into war through coercion or drug addiction and sometimes by a basic need to obtain food. Due to failures in immigration policy, team members told the jury that sex trafficking of men, women and children festers today in Western nations. The students reported that 20,000 youth are trafficked inside the United States borders every year.

On the topic of forced labor, Princess Goodridge, who studies communications and journalism at St. Augustine’s College, discussed forced labor. U.S. foreign policy has often prioritized economic concerns over human rights, she said, and U.S. presidents had turned a “blind eye” on forced labor issues.

The team proposed that U.S. immigration policy differentiate between illegal immigrants who venture into the United States freely and victims of coercion or force. They also suggested that information pamphlets on these topics be written in languages other than English. 

“This program has been intense and rigorous,” said Christina Cross, an Emory University senior who plans to study urban and regional planning in the United States and abroad. “At the same time, they’ve given us the tools to do our best.”

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