Class Blog in Media Spotlight
The Carlisle Policy Forum covers emerging issues of global significance.
October 17, 2011
Will Nelligan (far right) listens to P.J. Crowley (foreground) before the class engages in a discussion. Photos by Carl Socolow '77
Dickinson professors encourage students to express ideas in variety of ways. However, it’s not every day that those opinions are published in an international-media outlet such as The Week. But that’s exactly what happened when Will Nelligan ’14 wrote an opinion piece for a course on national security policy and media.
Taught by P.J. Crowley, the General Omar N. Bradley Chair in Strategic Leadership and former U.S. assistant secretary of state, the course examines U.S. security policy and the ways in which new and traditional media factor into world events and American foreign policy. Students use online-media tools such as blogs to comment on domestic or global happenings that have an impact on American foreign policy and discuss the potential outcomes.
Nelligan’s first blog post to The Carlisle Policy Forum examined the debate in the legal and political community about a government's ability to unilaterally assassinate one of its own citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki. “I was far from the first person to write about this topic; what really gave my piece visibility was my utilization of another tool in the arsenal we've been given in class: Twitter,” said Nelligan, a political-science and history double major from Portland, Maine. Crowley, who has 38,000 Twitter followers, tweeted Nelligan’s post to highlight the great debate unfolding on the Carlisle Policy Forum. Nelligan sent it to Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and former director of policy planning for the Department of State. Slaughter, in turn, shared it with her more than 16,000 followers. Hits to the class blog increased dramatically, and within 24 hours The Week, with its 300,000 subscribers, had designated Nelligan’ s opinion piece “A Secret Memo, A Secret Panel, A Novel Process,”a “Best Opinion.” It was posted side-by-side with an opinion by The New York Review of Books’ David Cole.
“This is exactly what we hoped the blog would accomplish—to generate a good discussion in class and then expand it to the Dickinson and Carlisle communities and beyond,” said Crowley, no stranger to high-profile media interactions. Since arriving on campus this fall he has held interviews with Al Jazeera, BBC News, CNN, FOX News, The Daily Beast, The Guardian and Politico.com on everything from the Arab Spring, WikiLeaks, Iran, President Obama and Anwar al-Awlaki.
“As I watched this unfold, and the speed with which it happened, it proved to me one of the central points Professor Crowley makes in class—one I think he likely learned while working with Sec. Clinton at the helm of the State Department during the Arab Spring,” Nelligan said. “Social media is as powerful as you make it, and when you wield it to your advantage, it can benefit you in surprising ways.”