In February, students from UCF, Rollins College and Stetson University participated in a two-day crisis negotiation exercise. The exercise was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office and the U.S. Army War College. The partnership developed from a series of conversations between John C. Bersia, Special Assistant to the President for Global Perspectives at UCF, and Col. Martin Clausen, the College’s director for its Strategic Leader Experiential Education Division. Clausen began the exercise by telling students, “We are no longer at UCF. We are now at the United Nations in New York City. You are no longer students, but delegates from your respective countries.”

Over the course of two days, Feb. 6-7, seven teams of students – each assisted by an experienced mentor – worked together to create negotiation strategies in order to ease tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots at a simulated U.N. peace conference. Teams represented the European Union, U.S., U.K., Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. A week before the exercise, participants received historical briefs on the regional stalemate as well as objectives specific to their assigned countries.

Retired Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas, who directs UCF’s Diplomacy Program, served as the exercise’s U.N. Special Representative. Referencing her own experience working with Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, she encouraged students to pursue compromise without overlooking the positions and goals of their countries.

As rounds of structured meetings gave way to student-initiated negotiations, delegates learned that many countries had competing goals, though they were still charged with improving relations in the region and with participating countries. While the results of the exercise did not “solve” the situation in Cyprus, students experienced firsthand the interplay among diplomacy, the military, the economy and social welfare. The aim of the exercise was to help emerging leaders develop skills in teamwork, communication, and strategy formulation and execution.

The exercise was run by a team from the Army War College, including Clausen, Ritchie L. Dion (Clausen’s Strategic Communication Operations Specialist), Major Dennis C. Davis and Major Joseph C. Chretien.
At the end of the exercise, a final debriefing allowed students and facilitators to comment on the process and results. Bersia noted, “For two days, our students stepped from the academic world into the work world. They took on complicated, enduring challenges with seriousness and purpose – and came up with insightful and creative solutions. After observing their performance, I was more confident than ever about passing the baton to the next generation.” Dion echoed that sentiment by stating that what the Army War College found was “a group of well-motivated individuals who were more than ready to excel in this type of event.”

In addition to the UCF Global Perspectives Office and the Army War College, sponsors and partners included the UCF Political Science Department, UCF Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence, UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, UCF Terrorism Studies Program, UCF Diplomacy Program, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and Studies and the Global Connections Foundation.

More information about this exercise, including participant names and feedback, can be found here.