Skip to Content

Josef Korbel School Hosts Sixth Annual Crisis Engagement and Negotiation Exercise (CENEX)

Back to Article Listing

Graduate Students Design and Implement Two-Day Professional Crisis Simulation

News  •

Submarines of the UK Royal Navy are sent to the Gulf of Finland to deter Russian maritime aggression. Over two hundred thousand Estonian reservists are called into action to defend Tallinn's porous and tumultuous border region. Separatists wreak havoc in Latvia's eastern provinces. International humanitarian relief agencies struggle to contain the flow of refugees pouring out of northeast Europe.T

These were some of the challenges faced, and actions orchestrated, in April by students at the Josef Korbel School's annual Crisis Engagement and Negotiation Exercise (CENEX), a two-day professional crisis simulation run by graduate students. Now in its sixth year, CENEX brings together over 70 students from the Korbel School's seven degree programs, as well as cadets from the Air Force academy in Colorado Springs.

CENEX is intended to give students practical experience engaging in a real-time crisis that must be negotiated in a high stakes, rapidly changing environment. "The goal of CENEX is to give every graduate student the opportunity to experience the challenges of working collectively and making decisions when dealing with an incomplete information/time-limited situation," said Dr. Lewis Griffith, the faculty advisor of CENEX. "Korbel School course work is very good at preparing students with the knowledge and skills they need, but using that knowledge and those skills on the fly when the situation is changing is hard to replicate in the classroom," he said.

This year's scenario, revolving around a Russian-supported separatist uprising in northeastern Europe, was meant to force students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to solve realistic international security challenges. The 2016 simulation was designed and executed by a team of eight second-year Korbel School graduate students. They worked through the summer and academic year to create a realistic crisis simulation, and arranged all logistical preparations for the two-day conference.

"My favorite part about planning CENEX was the passion and participation of the entire executive team," explained Rebecca Eggers, a second-year MA candidate in the international security program. "Each member took a country and designed their country's geopolitical perspective from start to finish...This was truly a team effort and I loved every minute of it," she said.

In addition to building leadership and teamwork skills, executive committee roles provided students with practical knowledge that they can use after graduation. "Serving on the CENEX executive committee did provide me the opportunity to become much better regionally informed, which I will be able to draw upon when I return to the Army upon graduation," said second-year MA student Frank Talbert.

Founded in 2011 by four graduate students, CENEX has become a yearly spring tradition at Korbel that is eagerly anticipated by students across degree programs. The members of the executive committee hope the tradition will continue for future generations of graduates. "In five years, I see CENEX as a much bigger scenario involving students and teams from universities and schools outside of DU," said Talbert. Rebecca Eggers also wants to see the scope of CENEX expanded. "In five years, it would be great to see CENEX incorporating more complex technological platforms that include graphics and interactive features," she said.