“Staff ride” in Normandy: learning from the past

For the first time, 40 students from the Master in International Security at the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) took part in a “Normandy Student Staff Ride" as part of a class offered within the PSIA Master’s program.

A “staff ride”: learning from the past

The Normandy Student Staff Ride draws upon the instructional "staff ride" method originally developed by the German Army in the 19th century and today used by most Western militaries in training their senior leaders. The course instructs students in the fundamental aspects of international relations at times of crisis and war, and in the difficulties and realities of war as experienced at the level of senior leaders and their staff as well as by the soldiers, sailors, and airmen operating in the battle space. It also enables students to better comprehend the strategic planning of a military operation and its confrontation with reality.

An educationally innovative format

This innovative course blending theory and practice is led by General Vincent Desportes: retired three-star general, former military attaché at the French Embassy in the USA and Scientific Director of the Master in International Security at PSIA; and by Colonel Peter Herrly: retired U.S. Army colonel, expert in strategic leadership and organizational transformation, and a long-standing lecturer at Sciences Po and PSIA.

After a theoretical study of the formulation of strategy during World War II and a detailed exposition of the operational design of the Normandy Campaign of June 1944 (three two-hour sessions in the classroom with a group of advanced students in International Security at PSIA), the student group travelled to the principal sites of the Normandy landings where they encountered in situ the complexities and difficulties of the operations and how they were experienced by the participants.

Particular emphasis was placed on the challenges this warfare presented on a political level, the coordination of action between the various national authorities, and the unavoidable friction between the plans as conceived and their application. In terms of strategy, the Normandy Campaign is a pertinent case to study as it was one of the few "joint" battles that took place in WWII, combining naval, air and land operations.

On the ground, students delivered short group presentations which they had prepared in advance, detailing specific aspects of the Normandy Campaign such as logistics, resilience during the war, and the role played by aircraft. Peter Herrly provided students with a battle book he had compiled to aid their understanding of events, and which included the Supreme Allied Commander's original communiqué to his force, staff planning maps and analytical documents.

After returning from Normandy, a final classroom session enabled students to assimilate the lessons and insights gained on the ground during their encounter with the realities of war. As part of their assignments, students will also write their own analyses of the implementation of the strategy in the context of World War II.

This course is part of PSIA’s extensive offer in educationally innovative courses, including “Mapping Controversies”, “Simulation of Negotiations: Ukraine-Russia-European Union Relations”, “Simulation Workshop: the Iranian Case”, and "Planification et conduite d'une opération militaire: exercice Coalition", taught in collaboration with the Ecole de Guerre (the War College) in Paris and other institutions. More than 60% of courses at the Paris School of International Affairs use innovative formats and contents, offering students a different learning experience that reinforces the practical aspects of learning, providing greater insight into the professional world.

Related links

10 measures to advance gender equality at university

10 measures to advance gender equality at university

In 2010, Sciences Po created PRESAGE, a gender studies and research programme. This trailblazing initiative now forms part of a comprehensive gender equality action plan. The pioneering nature of this commitment was recognised by the UN Women HeForShe programme, which named Sciences Po President Frédéric Mion as one of 10 university IMPACT champions for gender equality worldwide. More

What Bachelor’s graduates take away from their studies at Sciences Po

What Bachelor’s graduates take away from their studies at Sciences Po

On 6 September, students celebrated their graduation from the Sciences Po Undergraduate College. They all spent two years at one of the seven Sciences Po campuses in France, and one year abroad studying at a partner university. Those enrolled in a dual Bachelor’s degree programme spent two years in France then two years at the partner university abroad.

More
Happy Birthday Le Havre Campus

Happy Birthday Le Havre Campus

On 2 September 2017, current students, alumni, faculty and members of Sciences Po staff came together to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Sciences Po campus in Le Havre. In the video, students and alumni talk about life on the campus, present and past.

More
“When I arrived at Sciences Po, i was left-wing”

“When I arrived at Sciences Po, i was left-wing”

“I was eighteen years old, I was just starting at Sciences Po and I was left-wing because, given what I was and what I was reading, I didn’t see how I could have been otherwise*.” The year is 1989. Édouard Philippe had “only just” passed the Sciences Po entrance exam after a year of literary classe préparatoire. It was the start of three “dream years” for him on the university’s Paris campus.

More
“Sciences Po is now my child’s extended family”

“Sciences Po is now my child’s extended family”

On Friday 25 August, parents of first-year students on the Sciences Po campus in Le Havre came from all over the world to attend Welcome Parents Day. Parents were given a tour of the Le Havre campus, which is located on the Normandy coast, and met with the campus director and staff.
Following an information session where they were able to discuss their questions and concerns, parents were shown areas of interest near campus, including the cliffs of Étretat.
 
More

Meet the first MasterCard Foundation Scholars at Sciences Po

Meet the first MasterCard Foundation Scholars at Sciences Po

The first five students to benefit from the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Programme at Sciences Po come from across sub-Saharan Africa. Astou Diouf, 18, is from Senegal, Zipporah Gakuu, 19, from Kenya, Romaric Compaore, 18, from Burkina Faso, Ashale Chi, 17, from Cameroon, and Fitiavana Andry, 17, from Madagascar, making this first cohort representative of Africa in all its diversity.

More

An urgent call for inclusive cities

An urgent call for inclusive cities

On Friday 1 September, term starts at the Sciences Po Urban School. The inaugural lecture entitled “Urbanisation as a tool for development: the New Urban Agenda” will be given by Dr. Joan Clos, former mayor of Barcelona, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). In an interview with the Urban School, Dr. Clos reflects on the challenges currently posed by urbanisation and outlines the main recommendations of the New Urban Agenda to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

More