June 5-9, 2017

The Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies held its 19th annual Teachers’ Workshop at the Basin Harbor Club in Vermont from June 5 to June 9, 2017. The four-day workshop brought together 33 historians, political scientists, and public policy professors in the strategic studies field, and focused on best practices and lessons learned in the teaching of strategic studies. Resident and visiting faculty of the Johns Hopkins SAIS Strategic Studies program led sessions on syllabus construction, teaching case-study methods, and using film, gaming, and simulations in the classroom.  The group also spent a day at Fort Ticonderoga, NY, participating in a staff ride and learning how to use staff rides as a teaching aid for students.  

“We knew right away when we visited here, nineteen years ago, that this was the place to do this sort of thing,” said Thomas Keaney, Executive Director of the Philip Merrill Center and Associate Director of the Strategic Studies program, about the Basin Harbor Club. “We wanted a place to talk about serious business, but in a setting also conducive to reflection. It always feels a bit like a retreat, and the participants always learn from each other and form relationships that continue long after their week here.”

The Workshop has also occasionally been used as a forum for topical off-the-record discussions, as opposed to teaching. One such year focused on insurgencies and counterinsurgency, with participants from the government, military, and academia. “They were all talking and writing about this subject, but nobody knew each other,” said Keaney. “After bringing them all together to talk about it, they formed a community.” Several of those same participants later collaborated to author a counterinsurgency field manual.

The Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies operates as a center for teacher development, strategic thought, and education at Johns Hopkins SAIS. It explores the relationship between politics and the many kinds of military power—from the use of terror by small, non-state groups to the threatened use of nuclear weapons—aiming to promote dialogue and innovative research on pressing national security issues. More information about the Philip Merrill Center and the Basin Harbor Teachers’ Workshop can be found at https://www.merrillcenter.sais-jhu.edu/.