Friday, March 1, 2013

Student Diplomacy: Gordon Delegates Get Invaluable United Nations Experience

As any student will tell you, there is no substitute for firsthand experience in a desired career field. For Gordon students interested in politics and international relations, Model United Nations (MUN) offers an unparalleled immersion in real-world diplomacy.

Recently, 18 Gordon student delegates represented the country of Tunisia at the 2013 Harvard National Model United Nations conference in Boston. The event brought together 3,500 college students from around the world for a four-day conference that simulates the United Nations. During the conference, delegates work together to form policies and draft resolutions that they vote on during the final assembly.

The 18 Gordon delegates collaborated with Paul Brink, associate professor of political science, in a 2-credit MUN class from November to February. They spent the first month researching their country, and then drafted proposals during winter break. The culmination of their work was presented during the MUN conference.
Brink and two head delegates handpicked the 18 students—many of whom are international students from places like the Dominican Republic, Romania and Korea—out of a pool of 50 applicants. The 18 delegates served on 11 different UN committees at the conference and worked closely with students from other schools to draft a resolution. As Brink put it, “Model UN offers students a taste of the nuts and bolts of retail politics and forces them to confront ethical questions about political behavior.”

Gordon has made annual appearances at Harvard Model UN since 2006, when Professor Brink came to Gordon from Eastern University, where he also served as the MUN advisor, His class regularly represents African countries, including Angola, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. Brink explains, “We choose to represent smaller African countries because it provides Gordon students a chance to engage the perspective of a less privileged country.” During the conference, delegates participate in three sessions a day, revising, editing and forming working policy drafts. But as Brink points out, most of the politicking happens in the hallway or at social places like Starbucks.

Ian Isaac ’14, a political science major from Wenham, aspires to develop an NGO focusing on resolving social conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Isaac shares that “MUN helped me to exercise relational skills and provided an opportunity to see what real diplomacy looks like, in all its messiness.” For the international students who were part of Gordon's MUN delegation, representing an American college at the conference was an additional interesting dimension. Nora Kirkham ’16, an international affairs major from Bucharest, Romania reflects: “Having lived abroad my whole life, I participated in several Model UN conferences before, but none matched the level of intensity or sophistication in debate that I witnessed that weekend. It was a challenging but enriching weekend that I would recommend to any student interested in international diplomacy.”

For the first time this academic year, students also had an opportunity to participate in additional MUN simulations, by joining a student-run Model UN club. The club participates in MUN conferences in other cities including Chicago and Philadelphia. Guanya, who has participated in four MUN conferences with Gordon, shares the United Nations Team “hones member debate skills, parliamentary procedures, and teaches about the sophisticated United Nations structure.” Guanya, who aspires to enter into the field of international or investment real estate reflects: “It was bittersweet to participate in my final MUN conference. But the interpersonal and public speaking skills I gained will be useful for any job I take in the future.”

Blogger: Mac Gostow ’13. Mac is a communication arts major from California and a student writer in the Office of College Communications at Gordon College. With a double minor in business administration and sociology, Mac has interned for CBS News in New York City, is a founder of ScotRadio, performs with the Sweaty Tooth Madmen improv troupe, and served as a show host for KURadyo in Istanbul, Turkey. 

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