Kaustubh Salvi, a Howe School Information Security graduate student, was given a rare and prestigious honor when he was selected to attend the US Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC) in Annapolis, Maryland.
Held at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, NAFAC brings together Naval Academy students and their civilian and military counterparts to share ideas and concerns relating to international affairs. The largest, foreign-affairs conference in the United States, NAFAC has been providing a forum for addressing pressing international concerns since 1961. The conference and its delegates seek to explore current, demanding issues from both a civilian and military perspective.
The first Stevens student to attend this conference, Kaustubh was one of more than 130 students from 30 different countries in attendance this year. Attendees were comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from all around the country, US cadets, foreign midshipmen, and international students.
Kaustubh learned about NAFAC through the International Student Services Office at Stevens, which works closely with an organization called One To World. The organization helps introduce international students to the many facets of American life. One To World sponsored a delegation of only 29 students to the conference, of which Kaustubh was selected to participate.
“One To World enrichment program staff selects the delegates who make the best case for how their academic and professional backgrounds and aspirations relate to the conference theme,” said Asya Dinets, coordinator of enrichment programs at One To World. “We thought Kaustubh made a very compelling case for not only what he could learn, but also what he could contribute to the conference.”
“When I heard about this conference, I could not wait to apply,” said Kaustubh. “The topic of this year’s NAFAC, People, Power, Politics and the Internet Age, was very appealing to me and in line with my studies.”
Kaustubh, originally from India, joined delegates from around the world, including France, Germany, Chile, the Philippines, Iraq and Korea. A large portion of the One To World delegates are Fulbright grantees, and most are studying International Affairs, Journalism or Political Science, making Kaustubh a unique and distinct participant. In addition, his being a graduate student set him apart as students studying in the US that attend are almost entirely undergraduates in relevant fields of study.
Discussions at the conference focused on the role of government in regulating the internet, current events in Egypt and more. Roundtables were conducted, and each was guided by a senior member of the Navy. Speakers at the conference included the FBI cyber security chief, members of the navy and the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg – which was the highlight of the conference for him.
“I got to know a lot about cybersecurity – each country is hacking another country’s network. Our discussions focused on who should be protecting this and what steps a country should take to avoid cyber attacks,” Kaustubh said.
While at NAFAC, participants were also exposed to life at the Naval Academy. Kaustubh enjoyed the structure and discipline of the cadets, as well as witnessing the traditions and daily routines. He stated: “To be with Navy midshipman for four days was quite exciting. There was much energy felt among attendees being a part of that.”
Attendees were given an option of sailing a ship or joining a yacht patrol. “I chose to ride on a naval vessel. We learned how to steer the ship and worked with the captain and crew,” said Kaustubh. “The caption of our ship was in the Navy for 35 years and had seen every ocean. Everyone called him Chief.”
He is grateful for the support he received from Stevens to attend NAFAC, which was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him.
After he obtains his graduate degree from Stevens, Kaustubh, who received his undergraduate degree from Mumbai University, plans to work as a business analyst in the US for awhile. Eventually, he hopes to return to India and enter into politics as a member of parliament.