The International Security Working Group (NUISWG), sponsored by the Department Political Science at Northeastern University, hosted its first annual Boston International Security Graduate Conference, a one-day conference, on Friday, February 23, 2018, in Boston.
This conference served as a forum for graduate students to present their ongoing research and to receive feedback from peers. They engaged with a broad definition of security issues and actors, from a variety of geographic contexts and methodological approaches. Panelists presented both early-stage and late-stage research. Participants attended from institutions across the New England region in the United States as well as Canada. Topics included comparative national security, terrorist group dynamics, foreign policy decision-making, and security in the international system.
The conference, which was organized entirely by graduate students, included the following:
In a post-conference survey, participants reported that the conference atmosphere was “thoughtful, professional, organized and welcoming.” They also appreciated “the goal of creating a community of scholars through this workshop.”
According Northeastern University doctoral student Summer Marion, one of the organizers, “the fact that this conference drew an approximately equal number of men and women is something worth celebrating.” In fact, women are underrepresented in security studies. While the proportion of women working in the field has grown markedly even in just the past decade, many conference agendas are not representative of gender diversity in the field.
Marion also emphasizes that related, traditional security studies is dominated by questions of “hard security”—classic studies of guns and bombs. This has also changed in recent years. This trend is reflected in Northeastern University focus on resilience studies. Panelists presented on a diverse range of topics including issues in human security, gender, climate, and health as they relate to questions of security. Marion observed, “to me, these two points are indicative not only of a successful conference, but of one representative of emerging trends and leadership in a fast-changing field.”
NUISWG was supported by the faculty of the Department of Political Science as well as the Humanities Center in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Professor Mai’a Cross and Professor Max Abrahms, along with Professor Julie Garey and Professor John Portz, played an important role. They were involved in reviewing papers and arranging panels. Cross commented that, “the event was a great opportunity for Ph.D. students to hone their skills at presenting new research in a professional setting. It also allowed Northeastern Ph.D. students to start building their network with future colleagues from other institutions. It was valuable to have some sessions devoted to projects that were still in their initial stages.”
Abrahms was similarly enthusiastic about the event, noting, “I’m very glad I applied for this collaborative research cluster. This event helped to broadcast Northeastern’s strong foundation in security studies. And there were also teaching benefits; many of my undergraduate and graduate students attended the talks and told me they learned from them. We should make this an annual event.”