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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Kevin McClatchy

When the Ohio State Department of Theatre embarked on a new program last spring to use active workshops based on Shakespeare’s plays to interact with military personnel, veterans and their families, the goal was to help them find new ways to give expression to their experiences as they transitioned from soldiers to civilians.

Yes, that happened. But surprisingly, the graduate-student actors from Ohio State gained as much from the experience as the veterans. They didn’t just lead the workshops. They learned and grew from them, too.

"Working with the veterans was a bit surprising, because I think at the start, neither group knew what to expect,” said Linnea Bond, an MFA acting student. “We wondered who was teaching whom. We wanted to learn about their lives as veterans and about their unique perspectives, and they saw us as acting teachers. In a way we each saw the other as the experts in the room. We both brought in a lot of experience from our own worlds, and it was really exciting to learn from each other.”

The workshops were overseen by Mershon affiliate Kevin McClatchy, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre. The 10-week series of workshops created opportunities for the individuals to connect with one another and explore their challenges and triumphs in a safe and playful atmosphere.

Nine MFA acting students led the active workshops, attended by 10 military veterans and one active duty soldier, along with family members and caregivers. Theatre-based activities centered on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V and Othello gave the groups a chance to interact.

“It was great to watch people go from wondering why they were exploring Shakespeare to having a profound and memorable communal experience,” McClatchy said. “They were doing something fun and engaging with one another … and maybe even something more.”

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The 2016 U.S. presidential election was marked by sharp contrasts between the major party candidates on domestic policies, as well as both presidential nominees seeking to create clear distinctions from President Obama’s foreign policies. The election also featured a marked departure from the normal way that questions of race and nationality were addressed, at the same time that populist movements in several European liberal democracies were stoking suspicion of foreign trade and immigration.

The topics raised by the 2016 election are crucial for the academic understanding of elections. Did the marked foreign policy differences between the candidates affect vote choice? What role did racial and religious identity play in forging U.S. political coalitions? How important was a generalized resentment of governing elites that was amplified by social media? What about gender and domestic issues such as Obamacare?

"The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election: Tumult at Home, Retreat Abroad,” organized by Thomas Wood (left) and Herbert Weisberg, will examine voting in the 2016 election, with attention to the effects of foreign and military policy as well as domestic issues. The conference will take place Friday, November 3, through Saturday, November 4, at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 1501 Neil Ave. See the program and register at go.osu.edu/2016election

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Hollie Nyseth Brehm

Mershon affiliate's study examined testimony of defendants in Rwandan violence

The men who were tried for their role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed up to 1 million people want you to know that they’re actually very good people.

That’s the most common way accused men try to account for their actions in testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a new study has found.

Researchers examined more than 10,000 pages of testimony from 27 defendants at the ICTR to determine how these men tried to explain their involvement in the genocidal violence.

They found that an “appeal to good character” was used by defendants more than all other explanations combined to say why they weren’t guilty of the horrible crimes they were accused of committing.

“Genocide has been called the crime of crimes, and these accused perpetrators very much understood that,” said Mershon affiliate Hollie Nyseth Brehm, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. 

“They were trying to protect their reputation. Rather than acknowledging their role, they emphasized what good people they were and talked about their good deeds and admirable character traits.”

Brehm's research on perpetrators of genocide has been supported by grants from the Mershon Center in 2014-15 and 2017-18.

Nyseth Brehm conducted the study with Emily Bryant of Boston University, Emily Brooke Schimke of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota. Their results appear online in the journal Social Problems and will be published in a future print edition.

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RudesillD hires

How a two-day simulation is preparing the next generation of national security professionals

Sitting around a large Mahogany block “O” shaped table, a handful of people type furiously away at their computers. Some are conversing in small groups, others flip quickly between a series of windows on their laptops before uploading a breaking news announcement that appears behind them on a large screen.

At the front of this ad hoc control room, Dakota Rudesill, professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, stands at a small podium with his laptop in front of him. After a quick glance down at his notes, he turns his gaze to the rest of the room and casually asks the group, “Who wants to play the president of Russia?”

While the question may seem slightly odd, it fits neatly within the role playing capacity of The Ohio State University National Security Simulation, a two-day intensive exercise that gives students and faculty from Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and School of Communication, along with other graduate, military, and international studies students, the opportunity to experience what working in the national security field is like in the real world.

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