Not many student organizations can say that hundreds of teenagers flock to Foggy Bottom to participate in their groups’ annual events. But the International Affairs Society can.
While the group sponsors a variety of speaker forums, seminars and outreach activities, the most important events it takes part in every year are Model United Nation forums.
The group hosts a conference in the fall for middle schoolers and one in the spring for high schoolers. The last one brought about 570 high school students to GW. The event brings together students to solve mock international affairs problems through delegation.
The organization is most proud of their own members who travel around the country to participate in these events.
“Our intercollegiate team is our biggest expenditure, but I think one of our biggest success stories over the past couple of years,” said Steve Ryan, chair of the International Affairs Society.
This year, the team is participating in six Model U.N. meetings in locations as far away as Canada with one more scheduled before the end of the year.
The organization’s main goal is promoting international affairs study and discussion to people of all ages.
“We have a wide array of activities. I like to think we have something for everyone,” said Ryan, a senior. “I think the most common misconception about the (organization) is that it is only for international affairs students.”
While a majority of the society’s 350 members are students in the Elliott School of International Affairs, the group also boasts members from GW’s other schools.
“A lot of the interest that originally pulled me into the IAS was my interests in politics and business,” said junior Ryan DeWerd, a Business School student and executive board member of the IAS.
“Most people think I’m crazy as a business major to want to be involved in world affairs, but in order to fully understand … what is driving the U.S. economy it is necessary to understand what is going on in the rest of the world,” he said.
Other members said no matter a student’s background, IAS can be a place for them.
“It is also a ton of fun and I have met some of my best friends through my involvement in the IAS, ” said Katie Garry, vice-chairman of the society.
Ryan also stressed the non-partisan nature of the IAS, something that he believes is important.
“We have people as far right and conservative as it gets and people as far left and liberal as it gets. We don’t discriminate,” Ryan said.
Besides the Model U.N. conferences, the society organizes academic discussions. Last month, it held a panel to discuss space policy and international affairs. Speakers at the event included current head of the European Space Agency’s Washington office, former senior vice president of the European Space Agency and the head of the GW Space Policy Center and discussed issues related to the exploration of outer space.
This article appeared in the April 12, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.