National Student Conference To Focus On Crucial Problems Facing U. S


The 61st annual Student Conference on National Affairs (MSC SCONA) at Texas A&M University is expected to attract scores of students from throughout America to address the global challenges facing the country, and hear addresses by such featured speakers as Rep. Bill Flores, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Admiral William Gortney.

The conference in Texas A&M’s Memorial Student Center has began Wednesday and continues through Saturday (Feb. 17-20).

“The theme for this year’s conference is ‘The Global Chessboard: Old Players, New Agendas’ which will attempt to address challenges facing America today, such as energy security, terrorism, trade policy, alliances and the rising importance of regional players in international affairs,” says Kara Harrington, chair of SCONA 61.

Kara Harrington, chair of SCONA 61

Kara Harrington, chair of SCONA 61

All of the featured speakers this year have backgrounds and experience with the issues and countries that are part of that global chessboard, Harrington adds.

Organizers explain that each year, SCONA discusses a different topic of national importance, giving delegates the chance to interact with the nation’s highest academic scholars, government officials, and well¬-known public figures.

Opening the conference on Wednesday will be Admiral Gortney, commander of the United States Northern Command, who plans, organizes and executes homeland defense and civil support missions for the whole of North America and the Caribbean region. Gortney previously held positions as Deputy Chief of Staff for Global Force Management and Joint Operations, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Commander of U.S. Fifth Fleet (Persian Gulf, Arabian, Red Sea). Organizers say Adm. Gortney’s expertise includes civil/military co-operation, U.S. strategic interests and strategy.

Also listed as a keynote speaker, Ryan Crocker has served as the ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. He now trains the next generation of leaders as the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M.

Crocker will be joined by Congressman Bill Flores, a member of the House Energy and Commerce committee and longtime supporter of SCONA, in discussing the differing perspectives on the national interest garnered from their assignments.

A photo from the 1953 SCONA Conference

A photo from the 1953 SCONA Conference

SCONA, the oldest student program at Texas A&M, is an annual collegiate conference that brings together delegates from all over the nation and the world. This year 132 delegates will attend SCONA, 30 percent from other universities including the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy and the Citadel.

Following each speaker session, delegates will participate in roundtable work sessions with their respective policy teams. Organizers say these work sessions will culminate in the development of a policy proposal, which each team will present and submit for critique by a panel of policy experts. These experts will select one policy proposal for special recognition. A list of the roundtables is available at

The U.S. Army War College and MSC SCONA will host a pre-conference event, the International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise (ISCNE), Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb.16-17). A total of 60 students will be divided into teams representing nations, each facilitated by an officer from the U.S. Army War College, in order to discuss and negotiate an international incident.

This simulation will focus on a special Hague conference convened by the UN Secretary General. The date is Feb. 22, 2021, and the Secretary General called the conference for the purpose of negotiating a solution to the decades-old frozen conflict in the South Caucasus involving Armenia, Azerbaijan and the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The 60 students involved in the ISCNE will be divided into seven delegations (teams), representing the seven nations and actors with interests in the outcome of the conflict. The seven delegations were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia, Turkey and the United States.
The teams will be seeking peaceful diplomatic solutions to this hypothetical scenario designed by the Army War College, which will mimic a current international conflict. Military experts and professors will guide the student teams to reach a diplomatic solution.

Although a new topic is chosen each year, organizers say the goals of the conference remain the same: first, to create intelligent interest and response to complex problems and policies; and second, to develop enlightened, responsible leaders through free expression and a meaningful exchange of ideas among students.

For more on the history of SCONA, including past speakers and photos of past conferences, go to

Media contact: Tura King, Division of Marketing & Communications, at (979) 845-4670 or or Raye Leigh Stone, SCONA adviser, at (979) 845-1515 or or Kara Harrington, SCONA chair, at or (409) 554-1362


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