The University of Manitoba's J.W. Dafoe Political Studies Students’ Conference (PSSC) is the leading Manitoba-based forum on international affairs, defence and security which regularly leaves marks not only in Canadian strategic thinking but more broadly on the continent.
The Conference was first organized in 1985 following the vigorous efforts based on a far-reaching vision of several students who worked under the stewardship of Dr. Paul Buteux, founder and first director of the University of Manitoba Center for Defence and Security Studies. Dr. Buteux’s genuine commitment to the Conference had remained a key driver of the organizational efforts for the event in the following years.
After the arrival of Dr. James Fergusson in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba in 1988, the Centre for Defence and Security Studies became a regional hub in strategic research and a well-known, student-oriented think tank. Ever since, there has been a true synergy between the political studies students’ broader activities and the Centre’s research process.
Though remaining a distinct student initiative over the decades, PSSC has greatly benefited from the mutually reinforcing relationship between the students in Political Studies at the University of Manitoba and the Centre for Defence and Security Studies. Fully supported by the Centre’s director and lead staff, student enthusiasts who are involved in the preparatory work for each annual PSSC find a rewarding experience and great satisfaction in their overall engagement.
As a result, PSSC has gradually evolved into a nationally recognized forum on politics, defence and security with expanded international participation each successive year. It is now a long and prolific tradition that we, the graduate students in Political Studies at the University of Manitoba, with the generous help of our professors and undergraduate colleagues, are determined to keep alive and promote to new heights
Coordinated by students in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba and aided by the Centre for Defence and Security Studies and faculty members, the Conference’s mandate is to explore issues of current relevance in international affairs by inviting speakers from the academic, diplomatic, and government communities to present their views in a variety of academic panels. Every year the conference is eagerly anticipated by students, faculty, and the general public wishing to seize the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers and officials in an intimate, collegial setting.
Under the stewardship of Paul Buteux, Professor of Political Studies and Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, the Political Studies Students’ Conference (PSSC) was founded in 1984.
In 1983 Rahul Aggarwall, an energetic University of Manitoba student with an interest in arms control and disarmament, came up with a concept of hosting a conference that would unite students, academics, and professionals from across Canada and eventually the world. Mr. Aggarwall brought together fellow students John Skynner, Jeff Brown, and Aaron Hywarren and under the stewardship of Dr. Paul Buteux, Professor of Political Studies and former Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, became the core group who put together the first annual Political Studies Students’ Conference. Soon after the first conference in 1985, Mr. Aggarwall decided to travel back to his home country of India and was regrettably killed in the bombing of Air India’s flight 182. The devastating terrorist attack and the loss of a close friend motivated Jeff Brown and Aaron Hywarren to keep Mr. Aggarwall’s dream and vision of a student conference alive. These two students would Chair the second annual student conference. During its third year the conference’s name started to become well known and it was no longer a conference strictly targeting International Relations students. Students became involved in the conference who were studying political administration and theory along with many other students not enrolled in the Political Studies Department. The third conference would eventually be the staple that solidified and stabilized many conferences to come.
Coordinated by students in Political Studies and the University of Manitoba and aided by faculty members, the conference mandate is to explore issues of current relevance in international affairs by inviting several speakers from the academic, diplomatic, and government communities to present their views in a variety of academic panels. Every year the conference is eagerly anticipated by students, faculty, and the general public wishing to seize the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers and officials in an intimate, collegial setting.
The PSSC has invited numerous distinguished guests to present their views on a wide range of issues. Conference participants have included speakers from Canadian universities, as well as the London School of Economics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), the Royal Military College, and officials from the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), RAND Corporation, Department of National Defence (DND), and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Keynote speakers have included Romeo Dallaire, Commander of UN Peacekeeping Forces in Rwanda and Chief of Staff of the Canadian Forces; Susan Strange, prolific academic writer on globalization and international political economy; the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and David Bercuson, historian and Globe and Mail columnist, just to name a few. Student "visitors" from the United States Military Academy (West Point), the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs), the University of Moscow, Bulgaria, and Singapore have also had the opportunity to take part in the three-day Conference.
Although the range of topics has been diverse, the theme of each student conference has always centered on issues in international affairs and it's implications for Canada - Topics explore the economics, social, cultural, and political implications of the changes taking place in the world. The aim of the conference is to challenge conventional wisdom in the field and present policymakers with alternatives for the future. Conference themes have included such as:
Open to everyone and free of charge, the PSSC attracts hundreds of people over the course of three days. Advertising for the Conference is widespread, consisting of posters, banners, brochures, and press releases to local media. Conference supporters are given full recognition in all of our publicity.
At the conclusion of the Conference, papers presented are edited and published as an Occasional (Bison) Paper under the auspices of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies and circulated internationally. These proceedings are available for all Conference supporters.
In January of 2004, the PSSC adopted its formal logo: