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Markley Presentation

Eliza M. Markley, a doctorate student with the Kennesaw State University in the U.S. state of Georgia, announces the findings of her thesis – Building Social Capital in the Global Security Context; A study at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies – to faculty March 20 at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. (DOD Photo by Karlheinz Wedhorn/RELEASED)

By Christine June
GCMC Public Affairs

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany  – Results are in from the first academic research project on the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here, and the findings solidify what faculty and alumni have known for the past 20 years.

“The Marshall Center builds social capital … cooperation among countries,” said Eliza M. Markley, a doctorate student with Kennesaw State University in the U.S. state of Georgia, who conducted research for her dissertation on the Marshall Center in a span of almost three years interviewing 93 alumni from 41 countries. “In the security environment today, no nation can be safe outside of the cooperation paradigm so the fact that the Marshall Center builds social capital is crucial for global security today.”

Most of her research was sponsored by the Marshall Center Alumni Scholar’s Program, which is part of the center’s alumni program, said Dean Dwigans, chief of the Marshall Center’s alumni programs office. He added sponsorship included two trips to the center and one to Romania - the center’s largest and most active alumni group – for Markley to conduct research interviews at alumni events.

She publically announced the findings of her research – Building Social Capital in the Global Security Context; A study at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies – first to alumni attending a community of interest workshop and then to faculty March 19 and 20 here. 

Once she briefed the faculty, Markley was designated as a Marshall Center Alumni Scholar by Dr. Robert Brannon, dean of the College of International and Security Studies.

She said it will take “a couple of more months” for her dissertation to be published as there are several steps yet to complete for the dissertation committee.

The question that formed the foundation of Markley’s research was, “How and to what extent does international education at the Marshall Center build social capital in the global security content?” Her dissertation is structured into nine chapters with four dedicated to results on networks, trust, values and agents of change.

“This is the first project that has taken an academic approach on what the Marshall Center has been doing for years, which I think will have more credibility with our stakeholders.   Her research shows that we offer our stakeholders much more than resident courses; we offer them a network of security professionals who become force multipliers and agents of change when they return home,” Dwigans said. “I am not sure everyone understands that it’s something much more than a two, five or eight week resident course – it’s really an enduring relationship that ultimately accomplishes an important part of our mission – which is building social capital or networks working for regional and global security. That is absolutely key to what the Marshall Center is all about.”

The alumni program, which just reached a milestone of more than 10,000 alumni in 20 years, forms the center’s network of professionals and operates as a force multiplier in building social capital, said Markley.

Networking is the first of three main components of social capital, followed by trust and shared values, said Markley, who is also an alumna after attending a nine-week “Leaders of the 21st Century” Course in 2002. At that time, she was a captain in the Romanian army. She is still in contact with her fellow classmates, Marshall Center faculty and staff.

“My research shows that the Marshall Center is the starting place for friendships that become loaded with trust and shared understanding of values – a type of common ground that builds among the international participants,” Markley said. “What came out of my research was that the Marshall Center has a critical role in transferring democratic values to participants, who in turn carry those new values to their countries and start changing their own environment. They become agents of change.”

Included in the results chapter on agents of change are responses from alumni on how they applied their Marshall Center experiences in their countries. Markley said some alumni told her they implemented new systems of practices in their countries. Others told her that they established new counterterrorism and cyber security institutions or programs. 

There were alumni from shortly after the center was founded in 1993 who told her how they applied their Marshall Center experiences 10 years ago that made her exclaim, “That’s huge.” These alumni were instrumental in formulating new national security strategies for their countries.

Another unexpected application was how alumni, who are now university professors and military academy commanders, modeled their methods of teaching from the Marshall Center. Markley said they all told her that they stopped lecturing and instead, encouraged critical thinking through discussions, case studies, guest speakers and “How would you solve that?” working groups. Some of these alumni added that they also introduced new courses and topics, and instructed their professors to follow this critical-thinking approach.

Markley added that the partnership of the U.S. Department of Defense and the German Ministry of Defense at the Marshall Center showed participants that cooperation among nations can work.

“Alumni from more recent democracies in Eastern Europe and Asia reported having a more positive attitude toward cooperation with others from different cultures and religions after their experiences at the Marshall Center,” Markley said. “I think part of that is that they are mirroring the cooperation taking place here between Americans and Germans.”

The mission of the Marshall Center is to create a more stable security environment by advancing democratic institutions and relationships, especially in the field of defense; promoting active, peaceful security cooperation; and enhancing enduring partnerships among the nations of North America, Europe and Eurasia.