Editor’s note: Vermont By Degrees is a series of columns written by representatives of colleges and universities from around the state about the challenges facing higher education at this time.
If there is a question of relevance of higher education, the path forward for a college or university is for it to do what it does best. In Norwich’s case, that is to educate students in a mission-driven curriculum, based in service to others, that teaches students practical skills like nursing, engineering, cybersecurity, on top of a solid foundation of liberal arts education, teaching students not only how to act but also how to think.
This past week, here at Norwich University, we held our annual Military Writers’ Symposium, hosting experts from across the country on the topic of the evolving national security issues associated with the Arctic.
This program is quintessential Norwich programming: it offers first-hand access to those who are working on society’s hardest problems, and we offer that access free of charge to the general public, sharing that knowledge amongst our community.
The Arctic is critical to regional stability. All Arctic states agree that peaceful cooperation is ideal; however, the possibility of future conflict is also a reality. The Arctic now occupies a central position within Chinese and Russian foreign policy. Russia is building up its presence in the Arctic and subsequently, other Arctic nations are responding by increasing their Arctic footprint and capabilities. Cooperation or conflict centers on competition over strategic resources, maritime control and geopolitical uncertainty. The 2021 Military Writers’ Symposium explored various dimensions of the Arctic with aims at leading toward cooperation and regional security.
To help us understand this complex topic, we hosted Sam Alexander, a native Alaskan and board member at Gwich’in Council International. He grew up in Fort Yukon, Alaska, where his father was the traditional chief of the Gwichyaa Gwich’in tribe of Northern Alaska. He spent much of his childhood exploring the Yukon Flats and the Northeastern Brooks Range, living the traditional Gwich’in lifestyle. Alexander graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and spent 10 years as a U.S. Army officer, leaving as a Major in the Army Special Forces (Green Berets). After leaving his Army stint, Alexander graduated from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and co-founded Latitude Six-Six, for which he’s also CEO. He’s adjunct faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the Homeland Security and Emergency Management program. He brought a critical native perspective to the conversation.
We offered a scientific perspective, with a presentation by Lilian Alessa, a professor and chief scientist for the U.S. Special Operations Command Joint Special Operations University. Her federal service spans decades, including as a defense intelligence senior level special adviser to the Office of the Director for National Intelligence and deputy chief of global strategies with the Department of Homeland Security. She has close to 30 years of Arctic experience working the joint, interagency, intergovernmental, multinational and commercial sectors across Canada and the United States on security, defense and the resilience of integrated systems.
There was the critical maritime law expert, James Kraska, chair and Charles H. Stockton Professor of International Maritime Law in the Stockton Center for International Law at the U.S. Naval War College and a visiting professor of law and John Harvey Gregory lecturer on World Organization at Harvard Law School. He was a visiting professor of international law at the University of the Philippines College of Law and Gujarat National Law University, Mary Derrickson McCurdy visiting scholar at Duke University Marine Laboratory in the Nicholas School of the Environment, and fellow at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Kraska is editor-in-chief of International Law Studies, the oldest U.S.’ journal of international law. A former U.S. Navy commander, he served with operating forces and in the Pentagon, including as Oceans Law & Policy adviser and then director of International Negotiations on the Joint Staff.
And, presenters included an expert from the Canadian perspective: P. Whitney Lackenbauer is Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Study of the Canadian North and a professor in the School for the Study of Canada at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. He is network lead of the North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network and served as honorary Lieutenant Colonel of 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group from 2014 to 2020. He has (co-)written or (co-)edited more than 50 books and more than 100 academic articles and book chapters. His recent books include “Breaking Through? Understanding Sovereignty and Security in the Circumpolar Arctic” (co-edited, 2021), “Canada and the Maritime Arctic: Boundaries, Shelves, and Waters” (co-authored 2020), “Governing Complexity in the Arctic Region” (co-authored 2019), and “Breaking the Ice Curtain? Russia, Canada, and Arctic Security in a Changing Circumpolar World” (co-edited 2019).
We are in our third decade of offering the Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium, the only program of its kind at an American university. We convene authors and experts in military history, intelligence and current affairs to offer important perspectives on pressing global concerns.
Last year’s program explored the issue of water as a weapon, a critical topic that all leaders and engaged citizens understand. Water and warfare share a long history, and today’s implications are equally strategic and tactical. From the power struggle in the Arctic, to the war over water in the Middle East, to conflicts in Africa from depleted water resources, the intersection of the environment and security is an issue that will shape the 21st century. Norwich aims to be a thought-leader in this domain. Norwich University’s Environmental Security Initiative, a joint endeavor by the Peace & War Center and the Center for Global Resilience and Security, examines the nexus between environmental issues that intertwine with security concerns through research, internships, experimental learning opportunities, and programming.
As a Senior Military College, Norwich is dedicated to education that teaches students both how to build and how to defend the nation. The Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium will always offer unvarnished perspectives on the globe’s toughest topics. Please keep an eye out for next year’s program.
Daphne Larkin is Norwich University’s director of media relations & community affairs.
Vermont By Degrees is a series of weekly columns written by representatives of colleges and universities from around the state about the challenges facing higher education at this time.