Global Capstone Project Presentations

Elliott Students Plumb Global Issues: Presentations Showcase Research and Analysis

Elliott School Capstone Project PresentationWhy does Switzerland, surrounded by countries targeted for Islamic State attacks, remain untouched? Is a rigorous security policy keeping Europe’s “neutral” country safe? The answer, according to a team of Elliott School graduate students, is a firm “no.” In fact, research gleaned by the students for their master’s degree capstone project indicates that Switzerland urgently needs to address its security weaknesses. 

“Switzerland does not have a robust anti-terrorist policy, and they don’t have a codified anti- terrorist law,” said Marzia Faraz, MA ’18. During her team’s presentation, “An Assessment of ISIS and Switzerland and Swiss Security Policy,” Faraz emphasized that while the landlocked country has not yet experienced an attack, it is vulnerable.

Faraz and teammates Michael Reilly, Moe Velazco, Nate Wallace and Miranda Wickham were among more than 200 Elliott graduate students who, over the course of two hours on April 27, commandeered attention in classrooms in the Elliott School and the School of Business. The event was the culmination of their year-long research projects focused on security policy, global communications, Asian studies, and international affairs in general.

Presentations ran the gamut from transnational security to global gender issues to energy policy. One team, for example, analyzed Russian disinformation after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Several others focused on energy policy in various nations — Africa, Brazil, Japan,and the United States.

The Global Capstone Program is the signature project for Elliott graduate students from the International Affairs, Security Policy Studies, Global Communication and Asian Studies programs. Among schools of international affairs, capstones, which require on-the-ground research, are an increasingly popular alternative to theses, said Jodi Vittori, Adjunct Professor of International Affairs, who served as advisor to five teams.

“Schools are moving away from graduate theses, which are considered less practical than intense study and team presentations,” Vittori said.

David Solomon and President and Mrs. Macron

Around the World and Back with Alumnus David Solomon, BA ’08

When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Washington on April 23-25, an Elliott School alumnus played an important role in ensuring a successful and smooth State Visit, the first of the Trump Administration. David Solomon, BA ’08, is a Senior Visits Officer in the Office of the Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State. For this visit, David was the Lead Protocol Officer and served as the main point of contact between The White House and Élysée Palace for all logistical details concerning the trip. We recently caught up with David to learn more about where his career has taken him in the ten years since he graduated from the Elliott School.David Solomon in front of AirForce One

Briefly describe your career since graduating from the Elliott School.

I began working as an intern in the Office of the Chief of Protocol during my junior year at the Elliott School. After my internship concluded, I maintained contact with former colleagues and applied for a position after graduation when it became available. I initially served as a Protocol Gift Officer from 2009-12, handling all diplomatic gifts for the President, First Lady, Vice President and Secretary of State before transitioning to the Visits Division where I have been in a civil service position for the past seven years. I’ve had the pleasure to serve in the State Department under three Presidential Administrations and five Secretaries of State.

You just led the State Visit of His Excellency Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, and Mrs. Macron to the United States. What was your specific role? What was the most interesting aspect for you?

David Solomon with President Macron and Mrs. Macron

A State Visit is the highest honor that our nation can bestow on a foreign leader and often only a handful of individuals will receive this invitation during the course of a U.S. Presidential Administration. For the recent France State Visit, I was the Lead Protocol Officer and served as the main point of contact between the White House and Élysée Palace for all logistical details of the three-day visit. In addition to dozens of offices within the White House, there are several other government offices and agencies involved with such a high-level event, and it takes careful coordination to bring everyone together. As the primary liaison for the visiting delegation, I played a behind-the-scenes role of maintaining the master schedule, negotiating all logistical concerns between the White House and Élysée Palace and remained with the French delegation during their visit to Washington, D.C. to facilitate the State Visit from start to finish.

For me, this was especially significant as this was the second State Visit of the French Republic to the U.S. for which I have had the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I had established relationships with Élysée Palace from the previous State Visit of President Francois Hollande in 2014 and it was a pleasure to work with the French Republic again for such an important visit. In diplomacy, the development of relationships is especially important and I know that the success of the recent France State Visit to Washington will have a direct impact on the next visit of a U.S. delegation to Paris.

You have traveled to over 60 countries for your job. Which trips have been the most memorable and why?

As a native South Floridian, being a part of the planning team for the President and Mrs. Obama’s historic 2016 State Visit to Cuba was by far a highlight. I coordinated the delegation of 40 Members of Congress invited by the President to join him in Havana. This particular trip was quite challenging due to a lack of resources available in-country and working with a new foreign government for the first time under such a high-profile occasion. However, with excellent coordination by the new U.S. Embassy in Havana and the White House, the outcome was a great success.

Another first was the 2014 Presidential trip to Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar). I served as the White House site officer for the President’s meeting with now-State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi at her private home in Rangoon. It was the first direct dialogue between the two leaders and the first-ever visit of any sitting U.S. President to this Southeast Asian nation.David Solomon and State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi

In February of this year, I also coordinated the Presidential Delegation led by the Vice President and Mrs. Pence to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeong Chang, Korea. It was powerful to be part of an event of such global significance where you are not only representing the U.S. government, but also the spirit of the American people on the world stage.

David Solomon at the Pyeong Chang Winter Olympic Games

What drew you to the Elliott School?

I knew early on in high school that I wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy. I also understood that the best way to do this would be through first-hand experience in my intended field, so given its reputation, prestige, and location, the Elliott School was a perfect fit for me. The George Washington University is the reason I am where I am today.

What would you say to current Elliott School students who want to make a positive difference in the world?

Take action. You have to find ways to put your good ideas and resources to use. The Elliott School will provide you with an excellent education to prepare you for whatever field you choose but it is up to you to combine your educational foundation with your personal drive to achieve your goals. When you find something you are passionate about, maintain a strong alumni network, take advantage of all available items in your toolbox and combine that with your experience as a student in D.C., you can put yourself in a position to be the most effective agent of change in whatever field you choose.

President Emmanuel Macron and Dean Reuben Brigety

French President Emmanuel Macron Stops By Campus – An #OnlyatGW moment


French President Emmanuel Macron and Dean Reuben Brigety
French President Emmanuel Macron and Dean Reuben Brigety

In one of the most inspiring campus events to date, 1,000 lucky GW students, including an unprecedented number from the Elliott School, enthusiastically participated in an April 25 town hall with the President of the Republic of France, Emmanuel Macron. In the many preparatory site inspections with the French Embassy leading up to the event, the French Ambassador emphasized how important it was to Macron during his official state visit to engage with students in a free-wheeling Q&A focused town hall event.

As President Macron entered the university’s Smith Center, a hush came over the crowd. GW President Thomas LeBlanc and Elliott School Dean Reuben Brigety welcomed Macron, then turned the event over to the younger set.

Positioned center stage with students gathered all around, Macron — dapper and with shirt sleeves rolled up — took questions directly from students speaking into hand-held mics. Queries ranged from Macron’s perspective on the war in Syria to his view of global climate change. In a dramatic moment, the youthful French leader offered an impassioned plea, urging students to address this critical issue now and in the future.

In another memorable moment, the president encouraged students to speak truth to power. “You don’t always have to follow the rules,” he said, punctuating his point with strong language in the student vernacular. Friendly laughter followed.

While the event was slated to span 90 minutes, Macron remained center stage for a full two hours. Diplomatic, engaging, and energetic throughout, the president capped off his remarks by stepping over protective barricades to wade into a throng eager to snap selfies and shake his hand. As the president gracefully exited, he left 1,000 students immersed in the meaning of the commonly heard phrase “Only at GW.”

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