Southeast students tackle global issues during annual conference

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The world's population is growing at a rate of 216,000 people per day. By 2050, the population will grow to about 9.2 billion people compared to about 7 billion today.

Karen Meacham, the director of educational outreach at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, used these statistics to give perspective to the biggest challenges facing the world in 2025 and beyond.

"Will we be able to keep up with the accelerated change?" she asked.

Meacham was one of two experts from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank who spoke Monday at Southeast Missouri State University's third annual Regional Conference on Global Issues.

During the event, about four months of work culminated for 35 students. Most analyzed problems related to the seven revolutions Meacham outlined in her speech. She spoke about challenges regarding population, resources, technology, information, economic integration, conflict and governance.

During the conference, six groups of Southeast students gave presentations about their plans to solve some of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. During spring break, the students traveled to Washington, D.C. to work with scholars and experts at the nonpartisan think tank. They analyzed international issues like nuclear proliferation, global warming and terrorism. This is the fourth year the university sent students to the center.

Meacham was joined by Tom Sanderson, deputy director and senior fellow for the center's Transnational Threats Project, who gave a presentation about international security and terrorism.

Throughout the afternoon, group after group stood on stage at Bedell Performance Hall, defended their ideas and took questions from an audience of professors, students and community members.

Jon Schweigert, a junior studying psychology, was one of seven students charged with analyzing nuclear non-proliferation and conflict. He defended the group's stance, which made a case for banning nuclear bombs.

Even though nations currently use the weapons for strategy and not warfare, there is the potential they could fall into the hands of terrorists, he said.

"By that point, it might be a little too late," he said, during the presentation.

Liz Vinson, a sophomore studying public relations and Spanish, applied previous experience to her presentation. She was part of a six-member group analyzing resource scarcity. After seeing the problem first-hand during a mission trip to Uganda, Vinson said she learned the policymaking aspect during her time at the think tank. Her group advocated support for microfinancing and agriculture reform to address the problem.

"That was my draw to the topic, because I've seen what it means to not have resources," she said.

abusch@semissourian.com

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