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Australian students participate in START’s first U.S. 'study tour' for international students


Australian students participate in START’s first U.S. 'study tour' for international students

June 29, 2015Beth Schwartz

This June, START hosted 15 graduate students and two staff from Australia’s Macquarie University for the “2015 START-PICT Seminar on U.S. Perspectives on Contemporary Security Issues and U.S.-Australia Cooperation,” a two-week intensive study tour of the Washington, D.C., region. The students came from the Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counterterrorism (PICT) at Macquarie, specializing in both International Security Studies and Policing.

The program marks the first time that START has invited students from abroad to participate in an international study program, and was designed to develop students’ academic and career knowledge by connecting Australia’s next generation of security professionals with START researchers and other U.S. experts.

During their time in the United States, the students heard from START Director Dr. Gary LaFree and other START researchers, as well as experts from government, academia, and private industry. This included visits to the Pentagon, U.S. Institute of Peace, RAND Corporation, the Washington Post, and Department of State, among others. The students were also hosted by the Embassy of Australia, including a chat with Ambassador Kim Beazley.

Holly Barton, a Macquarie student, remarked on the value of hearing from both public and private sector experts. “I found the diversity important as it challenged ideas and stimulated critical thinking and discussion,” she said. “The ability to ask questions and discuss issues with the speakers was an excellent opportunity.”

Four U.S. students interning at START also joined the program, helping the visiting students navigate Washington, D.C., and American culture. Alexa Squirini, one of these START interns, enjoyed learning about Australian university life and sporting culture while also learning the students’ views on global security.

“The students were very intelligent and always had good questions for the experienced professionals we encountered,” she said. “I was glad to have had the opportunity to meet students with similar interests from another country.”

At the conclusion of the program, the students traveled to New York City to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The students took a tour, had a briefing with Cliff Chanin, Vice President for Education and Public Programs at the museum, and attended a public talk by a U.S. Special Forces Commander.

 “The 9/11 Museum and talks were the perfect way to end the tour,” said Fred Smith, lecturer-in-charge from Macquarie University, who accompanied the students.

The education team at START hopes to develop additional U.S. study programs for international students in the future.

“This program has been a great success, and we hope to build upon that success by inviting other international institutions to partner with us on similar programs,” said Meredith Collier, a START education team member who coordinated the program.

This is not the first time START has collaborated with Macquarie on an exchange program. In past years, START and PICT jointly organized opportunities for University of Maryland undergraduate students to visit Macquarie University to learn about Australian approaches to counterterrorism. Earlier this year, PICT suggested restarting the program, this time bringing Macquarie students to University of Maryland; less than three months later, the U.S. study tour took place. This was a particularly opportune time to restart the START-PICT exchange relationship, as 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Australia diplomatic relations. START hopes to resume taking University of Maryland students to Macquarie in January 2017.

For inquiries about the START-PICT program or other START international exchange opportunities, please contact education@start.umd.edu