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CGU team takes first place, $10,000 prize in International Grand Strategy Competition

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A team of five students from Claremont Graduate University's School of Politics and Economics (SPE) has claimed first place and a $10,000 prize in the Wikistrat 2011 Grand Strategy Competition.

The month-long contest pitted 31 graduate schools and think tanks from across the globe against one another to develop strategies pertaining to globalization and geopolitics. After being assigned to represent a country, teams forecast their country's national trajectory, developed national policies, brainstormed alternate futures, and responded to hypothetical geopolitical crises.

The CGU team represented Pakistan. The contest was assessed by a team of judges led by former Pentagon strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett.

Comprising CGU's team were: Benjamin Acosta, PhD student in comparative politics and cultural studies; Steven Childs, PhD candidate in world and comparative politics; Sean Gera, PhD student in world politics; Byron Ramirez, PhD student in political science and economics; and Piotr Zagorowski, PhD student in world politics.

The team bested rivals from the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Georgetown University, Ohio State University, Yale University, New York University and other top schools.

Childs said the CGU team's victory is a testament to the university's emphasis on transdisciplinary education and the political methods courses found in SPE’s curriculum.  Rather than examine the issues in isolation, the CGU team tackled the challenges of the contest with a broad range of thought and academic expertise.

"This emphasizes the strength in CGU's approach to education," Childs said. "I'm really proud of our team."

Wikistrat is an Israeli startup that provides an online model for strategic collaboration. Throughout the month of June, the teams used Wikistrat’s interface to formulate and share strategies on five critical geopolitical issues: global energy security; global economic rebalancing; terrorism; the Sino-American relationship; and Southwest Asia nuclear proliferation. Next, the teams projected national forecasts and fused these developments into workable grand strategies. The final stage examined the resiliency of these strategies by looking at how the policies were affected by induced shocks.

Barnett, the contest's lead judge, praised the CGU team in the early days of the competition for its suggestion that a United States withdrawal from Afghanistan would help to stabilize Pakistan’s domestic politics. The judge said the team's arguments prompted him to reconsider his own deeply held views on the region.

"I have met competing strategic visions, and my own are improved by the collision," Barnett said.

In addition to offering a monetary prize, contest organizers made the participants’ work available to government agencies and corporate firms interested in recruiting them as new hires.

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