Students gathered around a table working on a group project.

Honors Seminar Prepares Students for International Work

Students gathered around a table working on a group project.

This spring, 25 of SJSU's brightest students met for a special honors seminar where they carried out a National Security Council simulation.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

“To think like a global citizen is to live like one,” says Bill Reckmeyer. This is the leadership and systems professor’s mantra, and this spring, he got 25 of our best and brightest to live by it.

Reckmeyer taught SJSU’s first Provost’s Honors Seminar, a special interdisciplinary course to be offered on an annual basis. Reckmeyer initiated the effort after he was named SJSU’s Outstanding Professor for 2010-2011.

His course, Global Citizenship: US National Strategy for a Complex World, transformed students into staff members on the National Security Council in a semester-long simulation exploring our country’s strategic policy-making.

The 25 exceptional students who were handpicked for this seminar from hundreds of accomplished applicants had more than exemplary academic records, according to Reckmeyer.

“They represented a diverse range of students from all seven of our colleges. Not only did they have an average GPA of 3.87, but every one of them also exhibited impressive achievements outside the classroom that helped broaden their work all semester,” Reckmeyer said.

NSC simulation

The simulation focused on five major strategic issues facing the United States: energy, infrastructure, pandemics, security, and water. Each team of five students prepared a high-level strategic policy memorandum for the president.

The memos summarized the country’s vulnerabilities on its respective strategic challenge, highlighted the strategic priorities for that issue, and spelled out its strategic recommendations to address the challenge. According to Reckmeyer the interplay between these very complex issues exercised the students’ analytical abilities.

“Even though these concerns are highly complex and vitally important to enhancing the strength and well-being of the United States, the meta-challenge is that each of these strategic issues – and many others that were not examined in the course – are so interconnected that efforts to improve one can often trigger unintended adverse consequences in other issues,” Reckmeyer said.

Students benefited from Reckmeyer’s experience as a strategic consultant helping senior leadership in the federal governments of the United States and Australia during the past 40 years, as well as from his connections with practitioners and policy experts.

Expert connections

In addition to the semester-long simulation, students met with more than a dozen special guests who shared their substantial experiences and perspectives on global concerns and policy making. Guest speakers included Richard Goldstone, a Stanford University School of Law lecturer and former South African jurist who was instrumental in dismantling apartheid.

“The opportunity for extended private discussions with a variety of noted speakers made a huge difference for students, especially in terms of enabling them to explore the practical and personal realities of crafting strategies for complicated issues in a global world,” Reckemeyer said.

Reckmeyer’s leadership on campus and his commitment to providing opportunities that promote collaboration in an international context will keep on preparing SJSU students for global work and encouraging their development as global citizens.

Reckmeyer is also director of the SJSU Salzburg Program, which is dedicated to globalizing the university by discussing worldwide issues and providing students with opportunities to become better global citizens.