Student Team Wins Best Policy Proposal during SCONA Conference

Shelby Kilpatrick. Photo by Rob Williams

Congratulations to Senior Entomology Shelby Kilpatrick as she was involved in a team that received Best Policy Proposal during the 62nd meeting of the MSC Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA).

Kilpatrick was one of 196 delegates that were divided into 17 roundtable discussion groups during the annual conference held on February 14-18. The team was tasked to collaborate and write a policy proposal within 60 hours addressing a topic of national importance, such as homeland security, the environment, epidemics and public health, and cybersecurity.

The team she was in was called “Mother Nature and Uncle Sam: Environmental Issues of the 21st Century,” in which they focused on solving issues concerning the environment, specifically looking at how the impact of climate change is affecting humanity today. The team’s proposal focused on finding how the United States can diversify energy sources to include renewable energy, such as wind and solar, to help us become less dependent on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Kilpatrick said that developing resilience in the coastal infrastructure from rising sea levels and natural disasters in the United States would help to protect our national security in the areas of environmental and energy policy.

Kilpatrick was excited to win the award and said it was a great learning experience being in the group.

“I was a little surprised, but very pleased when I was told that my roundtable group’s policy proposal had received the Best Policy Proposal Award for the conference,” Kilpatrick said.  “There were 17 roundtables in total, each with their own proposal, and my group had thought early on that it would be difficult for us to win with the topic of climate change as it can be a politically polarized topic. This influenced how we approached the issue of climate change in our paper since it needed to appeal to a wide audience.”

Kilpatrick’s group also had to make sure that there was a connection between what they covered connected with the theme of this year’s SCONA: Against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic: Securing the Homeland.

“We also had the challenge of making clear connections between our issue and national security as other roundtables were focused on issues related to public health, cybersecurity, the military, the economy, and the media, which all have fairly obvious relationships to the security of our country,” she said. “It was a privilege to work with my roundtable group as a team to achieve this result!”

Kilpatrick wanted to join the roundtable to help further her interest in environmental issues as well as contribute to efforts to preserve the environment.

“I felt that the knowledge and experiences I had related to the topic would allow me to contribute effectively to group discussion and make a positive impact,” she said. “I also knew that I would have the opportunity to learn more from others in the group as there are many subtopics of environmental concerns in today’s society.”

Kilpatrick loved the collaboration aspect of the conference and that everyone was focused on solving the issues at hand. “My favorite part of attending SCONA was the opportunity to experience a group of people coming together and, without any prior team building activities, immediately begin to work on solving an issue that affects us all,” she said.  “It was amazing to see everyone’s particular interests, their passion in environmental issues, and how much effort we all put into our finished policy proposal and presentation come together.”

The teamwork and problem solving Kilpatrick learned during the roundtable sessions will definitely help her with her coursework and going forward in her career.

“These experiences will help me in my coursework this semester as I have several group projects and other leadership assignments that will rely on effective communication, teamwork strategies, critical thinking, and problem solving,” Kilpatrick said.


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