Riley Harty developed an interest in international studies after writing an essay in high school that focused on Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. The assignment was to select an international issue and write about why it was a problem and what could be done to fix it. Through his research, Harty said he saw that Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war seemed to have a huge impact on how the US planned to approach the conflict. It sparked his curiosity in learning more about Russia. When he decided to attend George Mason, he chose to continue his interest in Russian politics by majoring in Russian and Eurasian studies and minoring in intelligence analysis.
The summer before his senior year, Harty began an internship with Daniel Morgan Academy, a national security graduate school that seeks to educate the next generation of leaders by teaching them how to develop actionable solutions in dealing with real world national domestic and foreign problems. Harty was responsible for working with their Special Projects (SP) team in developing Student Experiential Learning Exercises (SELE). These exercises, according to Harty, are required of all students who are about to graduate from the Academy in order to test their knowledge and ability to apply what they’ve learned to mock, real-world situations.
“It is looking at the government, how agencies interact, how different groups work together, and providing a way for them to be able to develop solutions with the mindset that you cannot complete the mission unless you work with each other,” Harty said. In these mock scenarios, the goal is to get students to make decisions, and then be able to see how their decisions impact future events. Students are encouraged to fix mistakes or issues throughout the exercise.
“The point is to learn from your mistakes now and learn how to prevent them in the future for when you are in the real situation,” he said. “It is a way to provide experiential learning methods to test everything our students have learned – throughout their two years of graduate school – so they can apply as much as they can and figure out areas they may need to focus on.”
In some of these scenarios, students are directed to represent different countries or organizations with conflicting interests. They are given direction on what their specific goals are and encouraged to find ways to compromise with other players. Within that interaction, Harty said, it is necessary to be able to understand different cultures, beliefs, and how to cooperate.