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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

SCONA hosts delegates from 22 universities in annual conference

Photo by Jenny Hollowell

U.S. Navy Adm. Michael Rogers speaks about homeland security at this year’s SCONA.

This weekend, more than 200 students from 22 universities gathered at the Texas A&M campus for the 62nd annual MSC Student Conference on National Affairs, or SCONA.
Each year since it began, SCONA has hosted prominent alumni from career fields such as public health, journalism and government, as well as various high-ranking military officials. The conference brings delegates from around the nation and world to talk about topics of national importance through networking events, roundtable discussions and keynote speakers.
“The purpose of SCONA is to grow your knowledge and understanding of how things work on a bigger scale when it comes to international politics and diplomacy,” said international studies sophomore and conference delegate Monica Bartler.
This year’s conference theme was “Against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic: Securing the Homeland.” Students were divided into 17 roundtables, which focused on a specific topic of their preference. These topics included Weapons of Mass Destruction, Domestic Terror, Technological Innovation, Media Bias and many others.
Each roundtable was led by a facilitator who had experience in the fields they were discussing. Rolando Santos, Class of 1978 was the facilitator of the group “Good Morning America: Deciphering the Hidden Agendas of the Media.”
“Everything makes [our Homeland] vulnerable,” Santos said. “We’re more susceptible [to those problems] than we like to think we are at almost every level.”
Santos, a former CEO of CNN Chile, has more than 30 years of experience in the broadcasting industry, and said things like the media, infrastructure and the nation’s energy policy are equally important when it comes to defending the country.
During the conference, students were tasked with writing a presentation within their specific round-table on their topic as it applies to the state of the country’s domestic and foreign policy. Of these, the best were chosen to be taken to Washington, D.C. and given to a United States lawmaker.
In attendance at the conference was Major Gen. William Rapp, Commandant of the U.S. Army War College, who judged the students’ presentations on their assigned topics and concluded the conference by speaking at a banquet on Saturday.
“These are really hard problems, and the solutions to them are not going to be easy,” Rapp said. “But [the delegates] must feel that they have to be part of the solutions, because my generation’s not going to solve them. We’ll still be dealing with how we secure our homeland 30 years from now.”
Aside from participating in nearly 10 hours of discourse and debate, students attended lectures on various topics, including the state of United States cyber security led by Adm. Michael Rogers, Director of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command and Charlie McMillan, the Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Danny Vegel, U.S. Naval Academy senior, stayed with the Corps of Cadets during the conference.
“It’s been a really cool opportunity to see Texas A&M. It’s really the first time I’ve been exposed to the culture, what it means to be an Aggie,” Vegel said. “I love the interactions I’ve had at SCONA.”

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