The Fourth Annual Walsh Exchange, one of the only undergraduate international relations research conferences in the country, will be held at Georgetown and various locations around D.C. the weekend of April 10-12. The conference will feature a keynote address from World Bank Managing Director and CFO Bertrand Badre.

The conference is housed within the School of Foreign Service and is sponsored by the SFS Dean’s Office, the Mortara Center for International Studies, the Lecture Fund, Students of Georgetown, Inc. and the Georgetown University Student Association.

This year’s conference will feature a number of improvements over prior years, including programming beyond Georgetown’s campus and an increased representation of students from schools other than those located in the District, according to Director of Events Lizzy Tse (SFS ’17).

“Last year’s feedback after the conference was that there was not enough programming outside of the conference for the participants,” Tse said. “There wasn’t enough stuff for them to do, essentially. So this year, a major new focus is developing the out-of-conference programming.”

As part of this year’s new programming, participants will visit the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a local think tank, where students will have a chance to speak with policy analysts and researchers.
Walsh Exchange Chair Sidharth Sharma (SFS ’16) said that the program organizers are also considering a monuments tour and river cruise in addition to networking events.

“I’m excited for it,” Director of Marketing and Media Garrett Williams (MSB ’18) said. “I think there are a lot of cool things with the speakers themselves, but also the programming as a whole. We’re going to try to utilize the area we’re in as much as possible. I really do think it’s going to be a great weekend.”

The main focus of the conference is to give undergraduates a chance to get a first taste of presenting research outside the context of the classroom, according to Sharma. The conference will include three student panels held in the McGhee Library, located on the third floor of the Intercultural Center.

“We just want a creative space where undergraduates can have the opportunity to shape the way that we talk about international relations,” Sharma said. “A lot of times when you think of research, it’s usually with graduate students or undergraduates who are working on a thesis or paper for class. We want them to think outside of that … to get them thinking about the broader implication of what they’re working on.”

Five papers were already accepted by conference organizers as part of an early acceptance process. The research topics range from the Middle East post-Arab Spring to Russia to Asia-Pacific security.

Sharma said that he is anticipating about 12 presenters in all, half from Georgetown and half from other schools.

The majority of early submissions were from non-Georgetown students, a first for the program, according to Williams.

“It’s weird because normally we have mostly Georgetown [submissions] and a few others, but this year we’ve really had a lot of external papers and were still working on getting our Georgetown numbers up,” Williams said.

A major stumbling block for Walsh Exchange organizers has been publicizing the conference and convincing undergraduates to submit their research, often 20 to 50 pages long.

“That’s actually the biggest challenge, I think, is just getting people,” Sharma said. “It’s hard to get them to submit [research] because there’s this stigma.”

But each year the Walsh Exchange continues to grow. This year’s early application process saw applications from schools that the event organizers did not even advertise to.

Other goals that the steering committee has are doubling audience attendance and increasing communication with conference alumni.

This year’s Walsh Exchange Steering Committee is made up of seven individuals, two of whom are freshman. Sharma said that he wants to create a long-term sense of continuity within the steering committee.

“We’re trying to build an institutional memory,” Sharma said. “I think a lot of times you have a lot of upperclassmen who then graduate, and then it’s hard to pass on how we do things. So I think it’s good to have freshmen on the team.”

Conference alumni over the years have ended up working at places ranging from think tanks to the White House, according to Sharma.
Students wishing to present research at the conference must submit their applications by March 1.

Tse said that the conference is a great starting point for any undergraduate even remotely interested in a career involving research.

“This is a chance for undergraduates to really showcase their research, get that first paper out there or make that first presentation if they’re serious about going into a specific field of research,” Tse said. “It’s just their first go at wanting to publish something.”

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