I attended the ISSS-IS Conference “Rethinking Great Power Conflict and Global Security”. Aside from the prospect of spending a winter weekend in Florida, it was clear that I was among a group of acclaimed security experts from across the globe, with representation from countries like Brazil, Sweden, and China. I had come to Gainesville for the conference intending to refine my ideas for a research project that I could transform into a senior thesis. With this intent in mind, I was not let down. I research alternative security arrangements in Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War, and after attending a panel on NATO and the War in Ukraine, I began to reconsider the core principles of my research, primarily the likelihood of Russian democracy surviving into the 21st century. Additionally, another presentation by Joshua Byuo brought well-argued counterarguments against the current nuclear sharing arrangement between the US and its allies in Europe. His work presented another line of inquiry which I could explore as part of my ongoing research. Moreover, the various forms of analysis used throughout the panels has convinced me of the need to rigorously study political methodology. I am now planning on earning the Notre Dame Certificate in Methodology so I will obtain the necessary skills to conduct professional, high-level research. This decision is made upon the numerous recommendations from  conference attendees, Dr. Eugene Gholz, Dr. Michael Desch, and Dr. Dan Lindley.

Seeing peer criticism at work convinced me that conferences can serve as an invaluable tool to concentrate and distill preliminary paper content in a sort of erudite trial by fire. To see the breadth and scope of security-related research undertaken, especially by PhD candidates, provides an inspiring image of how young people can impact the field of security studies. Likewise, my experience at the conference has validated my aspiration to attend graduate school. I was exposed firsthand to the valuable work being done by leading security experts in forwarding our society’s understanding about international relations. This experience complemented my internship during the spring of 2022 where I researched
missile defense and nuclear deterrence.

I am deeply thankful for the support and advice I received from my professors, advisors, mentors, and peers. I feel fortunate that I was one of only two undergraduates to be able to attend the conference. I am confident that I made the right decision to attend, and I hope to travel to another conference before my time as an undergraduate expires.