In November, 19 Alverno students traveled to Chicago to participate in the American Model United Nations (AMUN) simulation. Held annually, the event draws almost 1,500 students from colleges across the country and also serves as the final assessment for a course, The United Nations and the World, taught by David Brooker, associate professor of Political Science.
While Model UNs are held worldwide, Alverno participates exclusively in the Chicago conference because of its proximity and timing, which allows for adequate preparation during the fall semester for students to represent “their” country. Alverno represented India this past year.
“To perform well at the Model UN a student needs a solid understanding of the issues on their committee’s agenda, as well as an understanding of what the UN has been doing on those issues,” explains Brooker. “The final piece is an understanding of the country’s foreign policy.”
Once students have a thorough understanding of these three pieces, they can use their country’s goals and priorities to guide their actions. “Students are expected to set aside their own views and remain true to the country’s foreign policy. We refer to this as ‘staying in character.’”
Determining which country your college represents is done via lottery at the conclusion of each Model UN. The names of each participating college, quite literally, go in a box and are pulled out individually. “When your school is called, you choose which country you’d like to represent from the ones that remain. When we selected in 2011 for the upcoming year, we were one of the first names pulled, which meant we were able to be a rising power like India.”
Representing India was particularly attractive in 2012 because the country was serving on the Security Council at the time. “The Security Council is the most demanding simulation. There are only 15 countries involved and there is no set agenda, so students have to be ready to discuss any international issue.”
One of the most unique aspects of the Security Council is an all-night “emergency” meeting. “The meeting starts at 1:00 a.m., and students are informed of a crisis situation that ‘just’ happened. The meeting doesn’t end until the group has hammered out a response to the crisis.”
In general, Model UNs are thought to be a great way to actively engage students to learn both about the UN and international issues, but Brooker also sees value in the abilities that are developed.
“Preparing for the simulation requires significant analysis of a country’s foreign policy: To adopt another country’s position on an issue requires a pretty developed global perspective. To be effective, students need to network and develop allies (social interaction); develop strategies to support resolutions that reflect the views of their country or block those that don’t (problem solving); and write resolutions; negotiate with other delegates, and give speeches (communications).”