The most efficient way of learning how to do something is to actually do it. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, and a group of Anderson University students had an opportunity in November to participate in the Model United Nations conference in Chicago. Led by Dr. Daniel Allen, assistant professor of political science, the group of nine students was exposed to the realities of being a national leader in the world today.
Allen is currently in his fourth year at AU, but the Model United Nations group has been on campus for some time. The idea of the conference is to give students an opportunity to practice diplomatic writing, negotiating, and speaking by representing an assigned country, debating real issues in a mock format. The group participates in a conference each semester that tests their knowledge, skill, and wit against other schools. The Chicago conference consisted of about 100 universities and 800 to 1,000 students.
“This year, we sent nine students to a fairly large conference in Chicago,” said Allen. “They represented Kuwait, so they had to take all the Kuwaiti positions on issues like economics and international conflicts.”
[Photo: A placard identifies the AU delegation representing Kuwait at the Model UN. Credit: Kaley Kitron]
The conference is a valuable tool for the students who participate, but it’s a rigorous one as well. Students must prepare well in advance to be ready for what could be presented to them at the conference. In a way, they must forget who they are and adopt the mind of a Kuwaiti leader. Most of the preparation leading up to the conference was done individually, but in some cases students would pair up and work to become experts on a certain issue the committee was facing.
The group met once a week to touch base on preparations for the Model UN meeting. Allen oversaw the group but also acted as a facilitator and provided information to the students to assist them with their research.
Prior to the conference students wrote position papers on issues to be covered during the conference. These papers were posted on the conference website so that all schools could see them. This helped students see which schools, or countries, share similar views, and it allowed them to see who they should work with and who they should avoid.
“This year the students got dragged into some pretty cool things,” said Allen. “The conference simulated historic crises. They simulated the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and we didn’t know that would happen when we went there. Our delegation got called up at 2:30 a.m. and had to go in front of the security council and answer why the UN should help Kuwait.”
Allen said the simulated crises were the toughest tasks placed on the students during the trip, but every challenge will help students in the future as they continue to pursue their career path. In terms of negotiation, it is the best practice they will get due to the fact that the conference is so life-like. In the 1990 invasion case, the students had not prepared for that situation and still managed to put together a solid performance during the conference, quickly changing character and imagining the world in 1990.
“Typically, there are plenty of future law students at these sort of activities because they are getting to feel the pressure, and they get to feel the stress of getting up and speaking in public,” said Allen.
Next semester, Allen hopes the group will be able to travel to a conference in Toronto. It’s become more competitive to join and travel to the conferences because interest has been growing. Anyone can join the group, regardless of their major. AU students interested in joining Model United Nations may contact Allen to schedule an interview.
— Zach Wadley is a junior from Bourbonnais, Ill., majoring in communication arts and minoring in public relations. Wadley is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.