The NATO 2022 Madrid Summit marked a decisive moment for international security and defense. The historic Summit was a massive step for transatlantic cooperation and resulted in a new Strategic Concept—an important policy document outlining NATO’s approach to security threats and challenges in coming years.

Right before the Summit, however, IE University’s Center for the Governance of Change launched Safer Tomorrow: Security Starts with YOU(TH). According to the Center’s project coordinator, Irene Pujol, this initiative aims to help young people become more aware of global security and defense concerns, as well as offer them a platform to address the emerging risks and opportunities from Emerging and Disruptive Technologies (EDTs).  

In a world of continual change, IE University must be at the forefront of knowledge production and dissemination.

Kylar Cade, student of the Bachelor in International Relations

The Safer Tomorrow student challenge

As part of this initiative, the Center challenged university students worldwide to analyze NATO’s strategy shift after the Summit and offer innovative solutions to the new crop of security challenges arising from EDTs. Open to students enrolled in any bachelor’s, master’s or PhD program, the goal of this challenge was to give young people a voice when it comes to tackling defense and security issues in the modern world. 

The global finale of the challenge was held on May 23 at IE Tower in Madrid. Students from universities around the world pitched their proposals to an expert jury—among them Dr. Bryan Wells, the NATO Chief Scientist. Two of the six finalists were from IE University, including Kylar Cade, a student of the Bachelor in International Relations; and Quynh Dinh Da Xuan, from the Dual Degree in Laws + International Relations. In the end, Quynh emerged as the overall winner of the challenge in the undergraduate category. We sat down with both Quynh and Kylar to hear more about their experience and what they thought of the Safer Tomorrow initiative and its impact. 

Why are the Safer Tomorrow initiative and IE University’s collaboration with NATO so important for students?

Quynh Dinh Da Xuan: Both hold great significance as, by launching this project, IE University demonstrates its commitment to addressing pressing security challenges through academic engagement. Students get a platform to reflect on the conclusions of the NATO Summit and the Madrid Strategic Concept, fostering critical thinking and research skills. Moreover, the focus on integrating technology aligns with IE University‘s emphasis on innovation.

Collaborating with NATO enhances the practical relevance of the university’s research and educational programs by ensuring that the recommendations proposed by students align with NATO‘s current security priorities. Thus, this initiative enables IE University to contribute meaningfully to the global security conversation and showcase its academic excellence and commitment to real-world impact.

Kylar Cade: In a world of continual change, IE University must be at the forefront of knowledge production and dissemination. This NATO-sponsored student challenge was particularly important given that the organization’s Summit took place in Madrid last year, where its new guiding strategy was unveiled.

Initiatives like this are a great way for students to gain real-world experience and apply their academic knowledge to solving global issues.

How did IE students participate in this challenge?

Quynh: IE University students actively participated in the challenge by submitting papers offering concrete recommendations for addressing security challenges through technological integration. These students, enrolled in various bachelor’s, master’s and PhD programs, utilized their academic knowledge, research skills and critical thinking abilities to contribute valuable insights. By reflecting on the NATO 2022 Summit and the new Madrid Strategic Concept, they brought fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table. 

Kylar: IE University students were well-represented for this challenge. Out of the six finalists, two were from IE University: myself and Quynh, who went on to become one of the overall winners of the competition. It is great to see so many students from the university participating in events like this.  

Even students who did not take part in the challenge had a chance to attend the finals in support of their peers. Overall, it was a great way to meet and network with leading professionals in the industry.

The papers of the six finalists will be published in an upcoming policy brief and the winners will also have the chance to contribute in upcoming projects regarding the future of security.

Irene Pujol

What did you enjoy most about this experience?

Kylar: It was an honor to be one of the six finalists in the competition. I think it was a great experience and an opportunity to apply what we have learned in class to a real-world situation. Not to mention all the opportunities to network with leaders in the field. Although the event has sadly come to an end, our collaboration has not: the proposals from all six finalists will be compiled into a report for publication. 

What’s your advice for students interested in participating in the Safer Tomorrow initiative in the future?

Quynh: This is an extremely rewarding and enriching experience that I would highly recommend. It’s a great opportunity to engage with pressing security challenges and contribute your own unique perspectives and ideas to the problem-solving process.  

As you prepare for the challenge, expect to conduct in-depth research into and analysis of the Madrid Strategic Concept to develop concrete recommendations. This will enhance your critical thinking, research and policy-oriented analysis skills. Additionally, you can look forward to networking with industry professionals and gaining exposure in the field of international security. 

This challenge is an invaluable platform to demonstrate your academic excellence, contribute to the global security dialogue and make a meaningful impact on the future of security strategy even before you graduate!

This initiative allows IE University to contribute meaningfully to the global conversation on security and showcase its academic excellence and commitment to real-world impact.

Quynh Dinh Da Xuan, student of the Dual Degree in Laws + International Relations