by Kristijan Fidanovski
On February 9, 2018, a group of graduate students at the BMW Center for German and European Studies (CGES) held the Transatlantic Policy Symposium (TAPS), one of the biggest student-run events at the School of Foreign Service. Since its founding in 1996, TAPS has been organized by SFS graduate students and has gradually widened its appeal to the general policy community.
This year, the symposium consisted of a keynote address by German Marshall Fund President Karen Donfried, a graduate student research panel, an alumni panel, and an expert panel. As Amanda Thoet, a second-year MAGES student and member of the TAPS Hospitality Team puts it, TAPS 2018 was an unmatched opportunity to “gather the next generation of transatlantic leaders in one place to share their insightful, energetic, and creative contributions about the future of the transatlantic relationship.”
Highlights of the 2018 symposium include the graduate student panel with students from leading European universities, and Donfried’s keynote address on whether the waning of America’s global leadership spells the weakening of the transatlantic relationship. “As a co-chair, I am particularly happy with the plethora of paper submissions that we received from students on both sides of the Atlantic. This enabled us to invite the best of the best to come speak at TAPS,” says Pete Giannino, a second-year MAGES student and co-chair of TAPS 2018. “As for Dr. Donfried’s address, I think that the variety of thoughtful follow-up questions from the audience was the best indicator of how captivated everyone was. We had more than 120 people register for the symposium and upwards of 100 people were present for the keynote address.”
Putting together TAPS required substantial organization and coordination. “We spent a significant portion of the fall semester laying the groundwork for TAPS. Nothing could be allowed to slip through the cracks,” says Giannino. “But we wanted to give back to the CGES community that had already given so much to us.”
“One needs to be both highly organized and very flexible to participate in a team effort of this magnitude,” says Sam Denney, a second-year MAGES student and member of the TAPS Professional Outreach Team.
But all MAGES students help out in some way, even if they are not formally on the planning committee, so it is really a great opportunity for us to come together and create something special.
A total of eighteen MAGES students were actively involved in planning the event, dealing with responsibilities such as professional outreach, content development, and welcoming international participants. “Since everyone in the MAGES program is quite close, I got to work alongside some of my best friends on an issue that we are all equally passionate about,” Thoet says.
“Overall, we are happy that TAPS 2018 seems to have brought about so many valuable transatlantic friendships that otherwise might never have occurred,” Denney says. Despite all the hard work, the TAPS team does not regret the process. “I am in awe of the collective talent of the members of my program and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work beside such bright and motivated young professionals,” Giannino says.