High School Leadership Conference

HSLC Topic History

  • Each year, Dean Steven Lamy, Professor of International Relations and TIRP Founder, is the HSLC host and faculty facilitator.
  • High school students (up to 240 students annually) prepare assigned roles and arrive ready to deliberate policy options and negotiate responses.
  • USC students (50-75 like those pictured above) serve as team mentors throughout the day to help students prepare for presentations and questioning in a final plenary session.
  • Conference materials are available on the Activities Database. Materials for preparing and conducting the conference simulation are designed for classroom use. A search tag link is provided for each HSLC in this list as far back as 2004.


2013 — Globalization, Governance and Human Security

R2P & Human SecurityIn the field of international relations, we continue to search for ways of preventing war and providing human security.  The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was adopted in 2005 by all nations, affirming that it is the responsibility of states, and where they fail the international community, to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes. But with controversy over how to uphold R2P, are we stuck with politics as usual? What will it take to assure "never again"?

Student leaders came prepared to deliberate challenges to preventing and reacting to mass atrocity crimes.  Representing different perspectives of state and non-state groups, teams constructed responses to crisis scenarios.  USC students mentor teams throughout the day to prepare for case discussion in the crisis debrief sessions run by Professor Steven Lamy.

Arsalyn ProgramProfessor Lamy's IR course syllabus provides a powerfully clear context for our efforts.
Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2013

We gratefully acknowledge the support of our primary sponsor for this year's conference, the Arsalyn Program.


2012 — AMERICAN RENAISSANCE in a New World: Who has the plan?

HSLC 2012In an election year, candidates each claim the best solutions to move the United States forward. Recovery from the 2008 global economic crisis has been slow—and very uneven.  The middle class & the American Dream have a weak pulse.  More debt & deficit spending are not the droids you’re looking for.  Beyond effects of the crisis, the US faces deeper challenges of a globalized labor force and technology innovation that often thwarts job opportunities.  As China, India and other emerging economies continue to rise, the US must confront stronger competition while school systems & infrastructure are declining and health care and college costs are increasing. What is the way forward?

As a policy analysis forum, student teams researched policies offered from four political perspectives.  In deliberation rounds, they negotiated to build a set of clear and specific policy choices—outlining benefits and acknowledging costs.  Professor Lamy framed deliberations with global comparisons and historical insights that challenged policy options. At day's end, students voted for candidates who best represented their own policy choices.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2012

2011 — FAILED STATES: How will the fate of the bottom billion ever change?

HSLC 2011With failed states—whether pervasive corruption, ethnic divisions, or a resource curse—new generations face old problems. When will the colonial and Cold War legacies be laid to rest?  With grassroots struggles, international assistance, or the Internet—what steps are making progress? How can today’s students better understand social dynamics in order to better respond to failures of any community or the needs of a growing global community?

Students examined dynamics of various states to evaluate the roles of different factors—political, economic, social, & cultural—and their relative importance to successful nation building.  Students promoted their strategies and collaborated to consider the most effective starting points for ambitious, viable action plans.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2011


2010 — Foreign Policy & Ethics: US options with Iran

HSLC 2010 Mentors

As the situation intensified in Iran —with questions of its nuclear capability, its danger of a military coup, its increased repression of a democracy movement, and its leaders’ continuing hostile threats to the West—was (is) US foreign policy on the right path to avert disaster? What could or should we be doing differently? If Iran presents the world with a real nuclear threat in the coming months or years—how should the US respond? What is the most strategic and ethical foreign policy to achieve security?

Student teams, representing conflicting worldviews and different ethical perspectives, deliberated US policy options with Iran. Students arrived ready to promote their views and present their policy options.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2010


2009 — CAPITALISM Reconsidered:
projecting the future mix of governments & markets

 TIRP HSLC 2009The 2008 global economic crisis was the most serious since the Great Depression. Beyond rising unemployment and a devastated financial system, the U.S. must address health care, energy, and the environment—which are also in crisis and directly impact the economy. What are the best government policy responses to these crises? Student teams, representing conflicting views on the role of government, collaborated on policy recommendations and negotiated a response.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2009



2008 — Explaining & Addressing DEVELOPMENT

The determination - personal and political - to address persistent extreme poverty, growing inequities, continued oppression, and environmental crises must be matched with effective leadership. Student teams, as country advisors, researched and evaluated effects of globalization and dynamics of the free market system.

TIRP HSLC 200814 country teams, at varying levels of development, met to vote and negotiate alternative policies to pursuing free trade, harsher sanctions for human rights abuse, and greater promotion of green energy and environmental protection.

Professor Doug Becker, Acting Director for Peace and Conflict Studies and Professor Lamy framed the history and conditions of development since decolonization in the morning plenary and at the closing plenary, they grilled students for explanations and justifcations for their policy decisions.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2008


2007 — IRAN: Building stability in the Middle East

Nuclear proliferation, sectarian and ethnic divisions, human rights, oil interests, and political development were points to be addressed and negotiated toward creating greater regional stability. HSLC 2007

Twelve role teams - the Iranian government and dissidents, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Venezuela - struggled through the politics of accommodation.

Professor Lamy outlined the context of negotiations in the opening plenary and raised questions as students made proposals at the closing session.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2007


2006 — IRAQ: Where do we go from here?

HSLC 2006Nation-building and democratization were the focus of efforts to establish stability and a new government in Iraq.

Twelve role teams attempted to reach agreements and build coalitions. Six groups "inside" Iraq included Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Ba'thists while six "outsider" roles involved the Iranian, Syrian, and US governments, and the United Nations.

Professor Lamy served once again as the conference facilitator. And in 2006, there were 115 USC mentor volunteeers!  An all-time HSLC record!

Special thanks to Major Thomas Mowle, our case writer. Seven "Key Issues in Iraqi Democratization" were clearly outlined. Students were true to needs and priorities of their assigned roles, understood their sources of leverage and why other groups had conflicting positions.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2006


2005 — Human Rights & Natural Resources

HSLC 2005The Paradox of Plenty:
Oil-Led Development in Ecuador and Nigeria

Eight roles were defined for each case: the national governments, indigenous groups, oil companies, the UN, non-governmental organizations, IMF/World Bank, consumers, and the US Embassy.

Leslie Wirpsa, Natural Resource Fellow at UC Berkeley, developed materials and facilitated the day.  She received her PhD from the USC School of International Relations and coordinated the first HSLC in 1998 when she was a graduate RA working with Professor Lamy.

Materials are available via the Activities Database, search: HSLC 2005


2004 — WTO & Development

HSLC 2004Seven nation-state roles -- across developed, developing, and less developed countries -- each prepared four issue areas: market access, agricultural policies, public health and environment, and privatization (trade in services).

Joshua Holland, an IR Major in the School of International Relations, wrote seven of the fifteen cases used for the conference. He opened the morning plenary with an outline of the free trade / fair trade debate -- asking the different nations to state their positions related to intervention in the market and in international trade.

WTO and international political economy (IPE) materials are are available via the Activities Database. See search tags for IPE and globalization.


2003 — North Korea

HSLC 2003Seven nation-state roles negotiated four issue areas: the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), economic reform, isolationism and the rogue state, and humanitarian intervention

Dan Lynch, Assistant Professor in the School of International Relations, opened the morning plenary as a case teaching session -- putting "actors" (teams) on the spot with questions about their interests, priorities, and options.




2002 — The Sudanese Civil War

HSLC 2002Eighteen roles included international actors far beyond the borders of Sudan including nation-states, rebel factions, oil companies, religious groups, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for human rights and refugee relief.

Gerald Bender, Professor of International Relations, lead the morning plenary session and then facilitated the afternoon debrief of coalition presentations. Professor Bender is one of the United States' leading Africanists.




2001 — War Affected Children: Child Soldiers & the Human Security Agenda

HSLC 2001Thirteen interest groups considered possible resolutions using the role of public opinion, the media, and international law.  Teams weighed these factors against the interests of foreign policy in strategic regions and against the economics of international trade in light weaponsand small arms.

Dr. Christina Moore, a psychologist who worked with children in conflict regions, described the prevalence, conditions, and expectations of child soldiers, and its impact on children.