CISTP brings unique speakers, views to campus

Tech’s campus has recently seen a number of big named speakers. Between the famous comedians, Nobel Laureates and four-star generals, one question is bound to come up: who brings all of these big speakers to campus?

For many of these speakers, the answer is the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy (CISTP).

Angela Levin, CISTP’s Program Coordinator, described the Center as, “the research arm of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.”

According to Levin, CISTP sponsors a number of programs, from emerging and nano technologies, to political regional hotspots.

One of CISTP’s big programs is their lecture series, where they bring big names to campus to give talks on their area of expertise.

The program recently drew a great deal of attention for bringing General David Petraeus, the former Commanding General of the multi-national force in Iraq, to the Ferst Center for a discussion with students.

According to Levin, it’s a bit of a mixed bag who comes to campus.

“Many of our lectures are geared towards [our] specific programs, but not all of them are. Some of them are just wonderful opportunities that come along. If an ambassador or an intelligence expert is around and wants to speak at Georgia Tech, we jump on it. That’s how we got Gen. Petraeus,” said Levin.

Last November, an off-campus attendee mentioned that Petraeus would be speaking at the Cherokee Town Hall in January. CISTP immediately called a member of Petraeus’ staff, and the next day, the event was scheduled.

Students who missed Petraeus’ discussion can find a link the full video of the event .

There’s no set pattern as to who gets invited to give a talk.

“It’s a combination. Either we seek a speaker, or someone comes to us and says, ‘We could arrange for so-and-so to come speak,’” said Levin.

Among recent speakers are experts on almost any policy topic imaginable, from national intelligence, to politics in east Asia, to nuclear non-proliferation, to the recession’s effect on Europe.

CISTP nabs many of these speakers while they’re in town for another event or two. Often when an ambassador or expert in an area comes to give a talk at the Carter Center or the Capital, CISTP extends an invitation for them to come speak at Georgia Tech as well.

While money does occasionally change hands to attract speakers, it’s not always the case.

“We don’t always offer an honorarium—sometimes we do, if the program supporting the speaker has a little money for it—but we get a lot of big names even without an honorarium,” said Levin.

Several of the Center’s speakers with military or government backgrounds are actually forbidden from accepting honorariums for giving lectures; they just do it out of a desire to get their message out to students.

On Thursday, Feb. 24, CISTP will be holding a colloquium on intelligence in the United States. The event is open to students, and speakers from several public and private sector organizations—including Georgia Tech—will be present.

“We’ve got some marvelous speakers, all of whom are experts in their area, [though], in many cases, you would not know the individual names,” said Levin

While individual names might not ring any bells, several of the organizations represented will. Officials from the CIA, FBI and NSA will be present, as well as several representatives of the Director of National Intelligence.

Students are welcome to attend, even if they can only attend one or two of the events, though they are requested to RSVP at CISTP’s site. Students will also get the chance to meet with several intelligence experts at a networking session held at the end of the day.

The keynote speaker for the event is Margaret Maxson, representing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

According to a brochure for the event, the topics covered will include cyber security, intelligence issues in the 21st century, intelligence issues in east Asia, and others

Another major event on the horizon is CISTP’s Sam Nunn Policy Forum in late March.

According to the forum’s , the forum “is designed to foster informed discussion of critical issues confronting the United States in the 21st century. Offering a significant venue for policy-relevant research and dialogue, the Policy Forum transcends disciplinary boundaries and engages scholars, practitioners, students, and the public.”

The forum—-sponsored by Bank of America-—will be on the topic of nuclear non-proliferation. The goal of the forum is to discuss ideas for the road to zero nuclear weapons and will specifically focus on Europe.

For students interested in seeing future speakers, CISTP keeps an up-to-date list of upcoming speakers available on their site.

On Feb. 23, CISTP will host a talk by Mark Blyth, a Professor of Political Science at Brown University, titled, “Europe, the Financial Crisis, and ‘Staying on top’ in the 21st Century.

Two days later, CISTP will also play host to Ambassador Morton Abramowitz, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to Turkey. According to the CISTP site, he will be speaking on Turkey’s role in international politics and how their policies are viewed by the West.

Check the regularly for updates on the speakers that are invited to campus and details on their lectures.