Students to attend National Model UN conference

Julie Herrmann/Sun Star Reporter
March 5, 2013

Nine students from UAF are attending the National Model United Nations conference in New York City to practice solving world problems.

Model UN programs, which take place all over the world in classrooms and at conferences, simulate the workings of the UN. The New York City conference is March 17 to 22 and is the largest in the world with 3,000 students attending this year, according to Model UN club advisor and Political Science Department Chair Gerald McBeath.

Students at the conference sit on committees and represent different countries within the UN. The delegation from UAF is representing the country of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Two students from each delegation are assigned to each committee. For UAF, the committees are three different General Assembly models and the Trade and Development committee. Each student is given three topics on which they have to write papers stating their country’s position on that topic. The topics range from the impacts of climate change to improving access to education to human trafficking.

“Writing papers was a huge learning experience,” said senior Political Science student Ayla O’Scannell. The papers use complicated wording and a different style from what students are used to.

In addition, delegates have to learn the rules of procedure and talking order and make sure that everything they write and discuss represents the views of their assigned country, not letting their own opinions show.

Once in New York, the committee will decide as a group which topic to address. They will then work together to write a resolution addressing that topic. At the end of the conference, each committee will vote on the resolution they came up with.

“It was difficult to find a lot of information about how they would approach some of these topics,” O’Scannell said. Although small, Trinidad and Tobago is a wealthy oil country and very influential in the regional economic alliances.

Senior Political Science student Chelsea Holt is the lead delegate for the UAF delegation. Holt does not sit on any committees, but instead coordinates among the committees. She is responsible for letting her fellow delegates know about decisions in other committees to maintain transparency. She will also set up a meeting with the UN ambassador from Trinidad and Tobago. “It’s more of an advisory role,” Holt said.

Most of the conference will take place in a hotel not far from UN Headquarters. On the last day, students will hold their final meeting in the UN’s General Assembly room to vote on their resolutions.

The UAF delegation is sent by the Model UN Alliance, a UAF club that had been inactive for several years. Holt re-started the club during the fall 2012 semester. “The club had no money. The trip cost $11,000,” Holt said. Chancellor Brian Rogers, the Provost and the College of Liberal Arts donated money for the trip. In addition, the club worked ASUAF election booths to raise funds. Holt is hoping that the Political Science department will provide a continual source of funding in the future.

“When we get back, we’ll be electing president and vice president for next year,” Holt said. Club members will also be working on recruiting and preparing delegates for next year’s trip. Holt wants the club to be long term.

In addition to Political Science students, Math, Psychology and Journalism students are club members and are attending the national conference. “It isn’t just for Political Science. Interacting with anyone, no matter their walk of life, is a critical skill,” Holt said. The conference itself is a networking opportunity O’Scannell said.

“People are offered internships sometimes from ambassadors,” O’Scannell said. “It’s a great experience to have. We’re excited to be going.”

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