Eisenhower Institute to Offer Retooled Set of Programming in Fall 2018

A photo from the Eisenhower Institute's 2017 policy debate (Photo Mary Frasier / The Gettysburgian)

A photo from the Eisenhower Institute’s 2017 policy debate (Photo Mary Frasier / The Gettysburgian)

By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief

The Eisenhower Institute’s fall 2018 programming will shift its focus to the 34th president’s legacy and will aim to engage a broader swath of Gettysburg College students.

Of the six application-based programs that will run beginning this fall, three are new:

  • Eisenhower’s Decisions, a program for first-years and sophomores led by Provost Chris Zappe that will explore Eisenhower’s tenure as Supreme Allied Commander and as president,
  • Decision 2018, a collaborative endeavor between Professor of Political Science Bruce Larson and Gettysburg alumni Jamie Fleet ’02 and Ryan Woodward ’12, both of whom work on Capitol Hill, that will analyze the outcomes and consequences of the 2018 midterm elections,
  • Contours of the Middle East and North Africa, which will be led by EI National Advisory Council member Danny Sebright in collaboration with faculty in the college’s Middle East Islamic Studies program and will engage students in discussion on issues of the MENA region.

End of Inside the Middle East; Development of New Program

The Contours of the Middle East program is reminiscent of the former Inside the Middle East (ITME) Program, which was led by former Israeli Intelligence Analyst Avi Melamed from 2013 until 2018. That program, which culminated with an experiential learning trip to Israel, ended amid disputed circumstances.

Provost Christopher Zappe said, “In July, we learned that Avi was not available to work with our students throughout the fall semester due to other commitments he had made, and thus we explored the development of an alternative program that could engage interested students through the entire academic year.”

Melamed, however, suggested that he had hoped to continue the ITME program and that it was the college who had decided to replace it with the new Contours of the Middle East & North Africa program, with which he will have no role.

“We have neither been informed nor consulted by Gettysburg College or the Eisenhower Institute regarding the replacement of ITME. As for the factors and reasons leading to that decision I guess you will have to ask the College leadership,” Melamed said, adding that he views ITME as a successful program that has benefited dozens of students at Gettysburg. “We’re proud of each and every graduate of the five ITME cohorts at Gettysburg College. We know based upon the continuing feedback we receive from ITME graduates and their parents that ITME was a life-changing experience. Our alumni continue to share with us that the tools they gained surpassed the Middle East arena. ITME provided Gettysburg students with the knowledge and the professional lenses, tools and mindset to explore and accurately analyze a complex reality.”

Associate Provost & Dean of Public Policy Programs Robert Bohrer did not dispute that ITME had a positive impact on students, but he said that sustainable funding was a major concern. The primary expense of ITME was the 10-day culminating trip to Israel for the 12 program participants, two student workers, and a college administrator; while Melamed was responsible for (and was successful in) raising the money for the trip in partnership with former EI Executive Director Jeffrey Blavatt, the college had concerns about the funding’s sustainability in the long term.

“To his credit, they were able to raise the money for it, but that creates some issue of ongoing sustainability,” Bohrer said. “We were raising money for expenditures that we had already incurred.”

Zappe added, “We are grateful to Avi for the very fine learning experiences that he has provided to those students who have participated in ITME in past academic years.”

The new Contours program, Bohrer said, will be for 16 students and will focus on more discussion and broader academic analysis than the intelligence-based focus of ITME. It will not include a trip to the Middle East, but it will include trips to meet with practitioners in Washington D.C. and other regional locations. Practitioners will also come and present on campus. Middle East & Islamic Studies affiliated faculty members Megan Sijapati, Amy Evrard, Aisha Mershani, and Yasemin Akbaba will support the program in collaboration with Sebright, the president of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council and a former senior official in the Department of Defense and Defense Intelligence Agency, who will draw on his network to connect students and various officials.

“We’re sorry to know that future Gettysburg college students will not have the opportunity to benefit from the ITME experience,” Melamed said. “We hope that the program replacing ITME will be as meaningful for the students as ITME.”

The need for significant fundraising efforts to support travel and events was a hallmark of Blavatt’s tenure as Executive Director of the Eisenhower Institute, which ended when he resigned in May of 2018. It was Blavatt who developed the model of “expert programs” in which practitioners from respective fields lead students in an experiential inquiry geared towards developing practical insights and connections.

While several of those programs, including Strategy and Leadership in Transformational Times (SALTT), which is led by Susan Eisenhower, Environmental Leadership, led by Howard Ernst, and Inside Civil Rights, led by Bohrer in partnership with the Office of Multicultural Engagement, Center for Public Service, and the Garthwait Leadership Center, will continue, EI is seeking to engage more students with similar funding levels, Bohrer said.

Diversity & Inclusion

That includes reaching students from more diverse backgrounds. Enhancing diversity in EI’s offerings is a component in the Academic Division’s Inclusion Action Plan, the most recent update on which said that EI has “commenced a process to increase participation of URM [underrepresented minority] and first-generation students this year.” Among the components of that process is elimination of program fees; beginning in the fall of 2018, all of EI’s programs will be available at no additional cost to students.

“Getting rid of the fees sends a strong signal,” Bohrer said. “We’re not going on the cheap. It’s about setting a priority of making these programs more accessible.”

Other Programming

The Decision 2018 program will resemble the previously-offered Inside Politics Program and will continue to include a trip to Washington D.C. over fall break, but it will be more exclusively focused on the midterm House elections. Dr. Bruce Larson, Professor of Political Science, will lead on campus sessions to provide context to program participants, while Jamie Fleet ’02, who serves as the Democratic Staff Director for the House Committee on Administration, and Ryan Woodward ’12, who serves as a senior legislative assistant to Representative Peter King (R-NY), will lead the experiential trip to Washington and facilitate deep dives into competitive House races. Inside Politics had been led by former Bush administration official Kasey Pipes, who is currently away from EI while working on a book project.

Eisenhower’s Decisions, which will meet over six lunch sessions and include a trip to the Eisenhower Farm in Gettysburg, will be for first-years and sophomores and will serve as a precursor, though not necessarily a prerequisite, to participate in more advanced programming such as SALTT and the EI Undergraduate Fellows Program. Now under the leadership of new Harold G. Evans Chair of Eisenhower Leadership Studies Brendan Cushing-Daniels, the Undergraduate Fellows program will focus on “Common Security and Common Prosperity,” two themes salient to the Eisenhower administration.

Next spring, EI will unveil a variation on the Women & Leadership program offered in multiple formats over the past few years as well as programming around the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Overall, Bohrer believes that EI will offer as much if not more in 2018-19 as it did in 2017-18.

He said, “I am confident that our programming this year will be robust and accessible to Gettysburg students.”

Editor’s Note: The author of this piece participated in the 2017-18 iteration of the Eisenhower Institue’s Inside the Middle East program. All information used in this story, however, was gathered through standard journalistic practices rather than anything gleaned from that participation. News editor Gauri Mangala reviewed the story prior to publication. (-G. Mangala)

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 serves as editor-in-chief of The Gettysburgian. Previously, he served as a staff writer, event coverage coordinator, news editor, and managing news editor. During his tenure, he has written more than 150 articles, and he led the team that won first place in the 2017 Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage of Robert Spencer's visit to Gettysburg College and co-wrote the package of editorials that won first place in the 2018 Keystone Press Awards. Ben is a political science and public policy double major with a minor in music, and he reads up to seven newspapers daily. Follow him on Twitter @benpontz.

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  1. Unbelievably disappointed. Inside the Middle East was the best and most influential experience I had at Gettysburg in my four years there.

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  2. As an ITME alumnus, I’m incredibly disappointed by the decision to replace ITME. ITME was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime educational experience. I cannot begin to explain the depth of the program. The experiential learning component was critical to understanding what we had studied in an educational and theoretical context. I’m deeply saddened that future Gettysburgians will not be able to benefit from ITME as I did.

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