Scholarship Recipient Sophia Molak: Reflections on National Conference

My biggest takeaway from my experience at the World Affairs Council National Conference can be summed up in with a quote by Governor Bill Richardson in his Keynote Speech at the Ambassador’s luncheon, “It’s person to person interaction that changes the world.” Each speaker began with his own personal mission, worked hard in his field, and made a network of personal connections to achieve his goal. As stated by Governor Richardson and exemplified by every honored guest, this last step is crucial.

            Senators Jeff Flake and Jeff Merkley come from opposing sides of the political spectrum, focusing on different ideologies and representing clashing constituencies. However, through these two gentlemen’s personal interactions, they are working cohesively towards the same goal: American prosperity. A bipartisan environment like the World Affairs Council was the perfect place for these two senators to discuss the future of our country. Although the Senators disagreed on a few points, they seemed to come to a consensus as to the future of key American interests such as the Iran Deal and U.S. presence in the Middle East. Discourse between leaders is natural and even beneficial, often the key to successful progress. Maybe if all politicians met in small groups on Thursday mornings over coffee and croissants to discuss policy, they would get more done and we would have a less polarized political environment.

            One of my favorite activities from the conference was my site visit to the Brookings Institute. The objective of the Brookings Institute is the foster urban development by supporting industries in various cities around the country, infusing them with technology that makes them more competitive. Part of this effort is job training. This initiative is especially important in industrial cities that have suffered economic downturns from job displacement, new technologies and automation. The Brookings Institute provides metropolitan policy recommendations to guide city administrations. I had never learned extensively about this field of research before. I Currently work at a think tank, conducting research and running analytics on foreign urban development, but my time at the Brookings Institute has motivated me to seek out opportunities for research application here in the United States. Urban development is particularly fascinating because it involves a vast array of variables. One must consider immigration, integration, commercial real estate investment, technological advancements, the housing market and more. This is exactly the type of complex problem solving I am interested in. This site visit provided me with guidance in my career aspirations.

            My experience at the World Affairs Council National Conference was not only informative, but also very motivating. As a student interested in International Relations, the broad range of paths to choose from can be overwhelming. Listening to the speakers, meeting leaders from each council, and interacting with other students has given me a network of mentors to look up to as I make important decisions regarding my own path.