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Wider Horizons: Model U.N. Club Seeks Solutions to Humanitarian Issues on a World Stage

12/21/2015

Model United Nations (U.N.) is an internationally-acclaimed program for college and high school students that simulates the policy-making activities of the United Nations. Student delegates from all over the U.S. convene several times a year to engage in well-informed discussions about issues of global significance and to formulate resolutions that will ensure international peace and security.

Educators agree that Model U.N. benefits students by accelerating their maturity, confidence, and their commitment to their studies. The Mount’s Model U.N. Club was established in 2012, and the group has attended conferences at Harvard, Columbia and, most recently, the University of Pennsylvania. “We are still relatively new,” says faculty advisor and Mount professor Dr. Mariela Wong. “But the students are honing their skills so they can compete with the more established groups.” They are well on their way: last spring the club earned an honorable mention at the Five Colleges Model U.N. conference, held at Mount Holyoke College.

At the recent conference at Penn, the Mount’s team spent four days with the General Assembly, building consensus and seeking solutions to international humanitarian issues. Representing nations of the Historical Human Rights Council addressing the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, students researched and wrote position papers to explore the topic and propose solutions. “Model U.N. exposes students to the wider world and gives them insight into policy-making. They discover they have a voice—and they use it,” says Dr. Wong.

Kaitlin Elizabeth Moreno ’18, the club’s co-president, studied Pinochet’s Chile, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, and the history and beliefs of Ethiopia to prepare for her role as representative. But it’s the challenge of public speaking that excites her the most. “Many people don’t like the pressure,” she says, “but it’s an adrenaline rush to try to be recognized among the larger groups like Harvard and Yale. It’s competitive, so you have to make it count.”

Fellow club member Giovanna Pinto ’16 states it plainly: “Joining Model U.N. has been the best decision I’ve made in college. Being globally aware is extremely important in today’s world, and Model U.N. is a great way to keep informed.” Ms. Pinto, who hopes to pursue a career in international policy, says she is “very passionate about what the U.N. represents and what it accomplishes. Model U.N. is not just about debating and winning awards; it’s also about learning about a foreign country and its role in the world.” She believes that Model U.N. achieves the goal of integrating learning from both inside and outside the classroom. “We work hard, but we enjoy having fun, too,” she says. “Model U.N. conferences provide both.”

While the group’s core activity is preparing for conferences, they also participate in service projects that help the community and the world at large. When the group raised money to buy a cow for a farming community in Uganda, the students were able to observe the connection between policies they explore in Model U.N. and the day-to-day needs of a society half a world away. But even local projects, Dr. Wong says, “make them more aware of the needs of their own community. They start to understand that speaking out on matters of global policy is just one way to improve the world they will inherit.”

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