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  • By Alyssa Brennan

Intel student 1 of 5 undergraduates in nation to present at national symposium

In March 2019, a Coastal Carolina student, Eric Winter, went to Omaha to present at the annual conference of Deterrence and Assurance Academic Alliance. This conference is done to link the US Strategic Command to academia.

After his presentation on how Chinese advances in the areas of artificial intelligence and quantum computing may degrade countries’ perceptions of US technological predominance and weaken America’s ability to reassure its allies of its superpower status, Winter was one of four presenters that was invited to the annual summer symposium held by STRATCOM.

Christopher Ferrero, Ph.D., gave some background information on the what STRATCOM is.

“US strategic command is the combined military command based in Omaha, Nebraska that’s responsible for strategic deterrence of major threats to the United States so they’re most famous for being in charge of our nations’ nuclear weapons arsenal, but more broadly they’re responsible for policy toward potential major threats to the United States and one of those perspective future threats is cyber,” Ferrero said. “This is an area where Eric is very strong, and he presented a paper at STRATCOM’s annual conference for undergraduates in Nebraska.”

The conference was held at the University of Nebraska and hosted between 100-200 students. One of the panels for the summer symposium is kept for students who gave the best presentations in March. The symposium is a large event and hosts military officers, people from private industry who provide various forms of support to STRATCOM, academics and policy makers.

“The perception of Chinese advances is of concern to Eric, and, by extension, STRATCOM because other countries rely on the United States for their defense; that’s one of the reasons the organization is called Deterrence and Assurance Academic Alliance,” Ferrero said. “Deterrence means that you are preventing threatening actors from doing things because they are afraid of punishment. For example, Iran won’t attack Israel. They are deterred because they are afraid of the U.S.

“STRATCOM’s job is also to provide reassurance to our allies. You want Japan to feel confident that they don’t have to worry too much about China because the U.S. not only has their back but is capable of confronting China. One of Eric’s key points was that China has very publicly making high tech advances that might harm our ability to assure our allies that the U.S. will continue to be able to fight China in the future and win.”

Ferrero has advice to students who may be trying to achieve a goal similar to Winter’s.

“Eric demonstrates that if you find an intellectual passion and truly pour yourself into it, it may lead you to have some remarkable experiences, even while you’re still in college. This is a model case of experiential learning that CCU emphasizes, but some of the best opportunities require students to go the extra mile. Eric didn’t do this presentation or paper on this for any class. He’s not getting any class credit for this. This was an opportunity for him to do a little work but make some excellent professional connections and to put himself in the position where future employers may notice him. He holds himself to very high standards and he did a great job because of that,” he said.

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