Lebanon gives UN students a ‘unique perspective’

Aasim Johnson, left, and Stanley Clark stand at the UN general assembly for the awards ceremony in New York City.
Aasim Johnson, left, and Stanley Clark stand at the UN general assembly for the awards ceremony in New York City.

By Gianluca D’Elia

For Rider’s Model United Nations team, the most rewarding part of taking the challenging hands-on course, POL 295, was the success experienced outside the classroom at this year’s National Model UN Conference (NMUN) in New York City March 29 – April 2.

Model UN took home an Outstanding Delegation award for the seventh year in a row, ranking among the top 10 percent of over 250 schools that attended the conference. The team also received four Outstanding Position Paper awards.

This year’s team was assigned to represent Lebanon. In the past, Rider has represented Venezuela, Nigeria, Peru and Syria.

“Lebanon was important when it came to global issues, especially because of the Syrian refugee crisis, which gave us a unique perspective,” said the team’s head delegate, senior political science major Winnie Mackintosh. Lebanon and other surrounding nations have experienced a large influx of Syrian refugees because of the Syrian Civil War.

In an effort to encourage students to apply for the team next year, team members shared their experiences at a teach-in on April 16.

Team members also offered insight into the process of joining Model UN. After a rigorous audition and interview process, students enroll for POL-295: Model United Nations. Students start doing extensive research during winter break on their specific committee topics. During the semester, they write and revise position papers while working on necessary skills for the conference held later in that spring.

At the NMUN Conference, pairs of delegates worked on various councils that discussed resolutions to conflicts in areas such as human rights, peace and security, and social and economic concerns. Committee members had to adopt their assigned country’s perspective on the issues. Through this series of meetings, the team applied their skills and gained an understanding of how a real UN session is run.

“The class puts an emphasis on research writing, public speaking and informal lobbying,” said Mackintosh. “Then, when you get to the conference, you really get to display all your skills. When you’re working with your committee, you get to see what a typical UN session is like in somewhat of a clipped form.”

After the day’s work was over, Model UN students took time bonding with teammates and new friends from other schools. Working with and befriending students from around the world was another rewarding part of the NMUN experience.

“When you’re in class, you’re thinking, ‘This is so hard,’” Mackintosh said. “But the best part of Model UN is learning skills, putting them into work, and meeting students from all over the world.”

Although some of the skills needed for Model UN seemed like a challenge, POL-295 provided numerous opportunities for improvement.

“I consider myself a good writer, but I didn’t think I had the capacity to speak eloquently,” said senior global studies major Petra Gaskins. “I couldn’t give a speech at all, it was pathetic. But the good thing about Model UN is that you gain a lot of personal development and improve skills that might not have been as strong before.”

Team members hope that students from all majors will consider applying for Model UN.

“Something we’ve really been trying to emphasize is that politics is more than just politics,” Gaskins said. “No matter what you’re interested in, it will intersect with politics. Maybe you don’t like the day-to-day administrative work, but maybe you have some knowledge about other aspects that you can bring. We want people to know that so they can get more interested in politics.”

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