Our nuclear summer

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This summer, the topic was nuclear proliferation. The program began with a three-week course on nuclear strategy and methods of historical analysis, followed by eight weeks of original research. Prominent policymakers and scholars addressed the seminar weekly. They included former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, and Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis.

The core seminar was taught by Connelly and University of Texas international-affairs professor Francis J. Gavin. About one-third of the student participants were from Columbia; the others came from universities across the U.S.

Now, several of the students are collaborating with Connelly and Gavin on a research article about the use of forecasting and scenario planning in formulating nuclear strategy. Leonard’s summer project will likely form the basis of his senior history thesis.

Topics for future programs may involve climate change, financial crises, migration, and pandemics. “The common thread is that we’ll use history to think about, and prepare for, the future,” says Connelly, who is looking for additional funding to keep the program going after Hertog’s gift runs out after its second year, as well as to support students who are continuing their research into the academic year.

“This program is about liberating scholars,” says Connelly, “so that undergraduates are doing advanced research like graduate students, graduate students are thinking boldly and creatively like undergraduates, political scientists are thinking like historians, and historians like political scientists. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s exciting, and it’s also risky. But I think it will pay off.”

— Joshua J. Friedman '08JRN

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