Impressions of the Schuman Challenge

When my colleague, Michelle Egan, asked me to take part in the Schuman Challenge as a faculty advisor for American University’s team, I assumed this would be an easy role and a limited time commitment. Boy was I wrong!

As part of the preparation for the Schuman Challenge, our team, faculty advisors and students alike, had to carefully study the EU’s 2016 Global Strategy. From this review, we were tasked with crafting policy positions that would reflect some of the priorities of the Global Strategy and help to strengthen the transatlantic partnership. No easy feat…

Indeed, revisiting the Global Strategy was a vivid reminder of the impressive breadth of capabilities and responsibilities of the EU; but it was also a sobering reminder of the very challenging international environment that the EU must currently navigate. This forced our team to think very carefully about which policy areas we would choose to prioritize, considering the many pressing issues that require attention.

The American University team during the final round of the 2017 Schuman Challenge competition

It was incredibly inspiring to witness our students preparing for and tackling the Schuman Challenge. From the start, they took this competition very seriously and they dedicated a great amount of time to it. They researched the EU and the Global Strategy extensively before they chose to concentrate on the topic of cybersecurity. They grappled with the same sort of obstacles throughout the process that policymakers face when trying to elaborate policy positions.

But the students persevered nonetheless, showing a great deal of patience and resilience to present compelling and credible solutions to bolster cybersecurity cooperation between the EU and the US. And while I had a privileged view of the work put in by the students at American University, I was also thrilled to see the same diligence in evidence from the other teams on the day of the actual Schuman challenge. It was wonderful to see so many students who cared deeply about preserving and strengthening the transatlantic partnership.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Schuman Challenge for students who are curious about and interested in international affairs in general, and the EU more specifically. Participating in this competition provides a superb opportunity to develop a whole set of important skills for the workplace, such as research, team work, public speaking and debating. It allows, as well, a chance for students to develop a greater expertise in international affairs, at a time when such knowledge is more important than ever.

American University’s Schuman Challenge team with EU Ambassdor David O’Sullivan at his residence

But more importantly, the Schuman Challenge is fun! Where else do students get a chance to present their ideas and policy positions to a distinguished panel of judges, ranging from think tank experts to ambassadors? And to get feedback from these same judges? The Schuman Challenge was an unforgettable experience for all students involved; and particularly for the students of American University, who had the chance to dine with the EU Ambassador at his residence as a reward for winning the competition!

In any case, I very much look forward to taking part again in this competition in the coming years.

This story is part of the #EUatSchool series, showcasing the wide array of EU educational programs, grants, and competitions open to Americans. From Erasmus+ to Euro Challenge to Kids Euro Festival, each week we’ll publish new stories written by the high schoolers, college students, researchers, and educators who have experienced and benefitted from these programs first-hand. Find new stories on Medium each week.

The Schuman Challenge is an academic competition for undergraduate students from DC-area colleges and universities to engage in rigorous dialogue on transatlantic issues. Student teams, under the guidance of a faculty mentor, analyze the opportunities and challenges for effective transatlantic implementation of one of the five priorities of the EU’s Global Strategy and present and defend their strategy in front of a panel of judges at the EU Delegation. Learn more.