Demonstrating the Complexity of International Crisis Management

The culmination of the Great Decisions program offers a role-play exercise where students serve as members of the National Security Council and work together to develop recommendations for an acting president regarding a timely, international crisis.

Program Structure

Participating high school students are given specific role assignments (e.g. Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, etc.) and are expected to prepare by reading a crisis briefing and researching their assigned job titles. To keep discussions challenging and lively all day long, a group of college student “troublemakers” is assigned to interrupt the National Security Council’s deliberation at the roundtable with surprising updates and curveballs.

The program is enriched with Ambassador Nancy Soderberg and Admiral Jonathan T. Howe, USN (Ret.), each acting as a U.S. President. Both have served on the National Security Council and are able to share their experiences and expertise.



2013: Crisis in Mali

2014: Crisis in Syria 

2015: Developments in Nigeria

2016: Crisis in the Middle East 

2017: South China Sea Maritime Dispute 

2018: Threat of North Korea Nuclear Capabilities 

2019: Economic Crisis in Europe

2021: Asylum Seekers at the U.S. Southern Border