Model United Nations Offers Insight Into Government, Politics

Fast-Growing Club and Class Popular with Students

For aspiring student leaders in high schools and colleges across the nation, a model government, such as a model United Nations, is a common way for students to learn government structures and diplomacies, and get valuable experience that they could use in the future. Conferences such as the National Model United Nations Conference attract thousands of young leaders from across the world to simulate real-world problems and issues in countries, and promote a message of cooperation and peace for the world’s future.

So it might be a surprise to hear that until recently, Marist College did not have a Model United Nations. Even better, in just four years, the college has not only formed a club, but also a class, devoted to simulating the intergovernmental organization.

“The biggest thing is that having Model UN on your resume really stands out,” states Dr. Juris Pupcenoks, a Political Science professor at Marist, and the faculty head of both iterations of Model United Nation. “You can talk about the application process, and you learn practical skills such as team building and public speaking.” Dr. Juris was hired by Marist College in 2012 with the task of constructing an international politics selection for students at Marist. Just one year later, the bedrock was laid down with the founding of the Model United Nations club.

“[The club] was originally conceptualized with the intention of being a Model UN club that would travel to different conferences,” states Nick Bayer ‘16. As a freshman, Bayer was one of the three founding members of the club and has served as a club officer after its charter was approved in October of 2015, currently serving as the club’s vice-president. “However, due to the high cost of traveling to and participating in Model UN conferences, the new club's budget could not support student involvement in model UN conferences and so it has since become more of a global issues club.”

Currently, Marist’s Model United Nations conduct regular trips to the United Nations building in Manhattan and hold regular discussions on current events in the world. They also organize events around current global issues, such as a Scottish Independence Referendum party back in 2014.

The Model United Nations class is slightly different from its club counterpart. First offered in the spring of 2015, “students will learn about the UN committee system and processes, parliamentary procedures, and the art of compromise,” is the focus, according to the class description page. The class is centered around the National Model United Nations conference in New York and preparing students for the issues surrounding their assigned country.

“It’s run as a regular class,” states Dr. Juris, “with the exception that the key point of it is five days in New York City for the Model United Nations competition.”

“Just like in any of the political science classes you can take at Marist, students who take the Model UN course will learn to think critically about the most pressing issues in the world today,” notes Bayer, who participated in the class’s inaugural run. “Furthermore, students of political science gain valuable experience in public speaking and analytical writing skills that will prove useful in any future job.”

Unlike most classes, interested students must apply to the course via a form that can be found on the class page, which asks applicants to state why they feel they would be a good delegate. The class is listed as POSC 280L and can be taken by any student who has already completed either POSC 113 or POSC 111, regardless of major. After a second offering this spring, the class will shift to an every-other-year format and is expected to be next offered in the spring of 2018.

The class prepares students for the conference by giving what Dr. Juris calls “experiential learning,” or teaching through the event rather than by a textbook example. In this case, students take on cases and advocacies as if they are an actual diplomat for their assigned country.

“This spring, we are going to be Tajikistan,” Dr. Juris stated. “So you learn about the country – in our case, Tajikistan – and then learn to represent it in front of other people.”

Overall, the biggest takeaways from the Model United Nations that both Dr. Juris and Bayer stressed is the fact that students learn about global issues while enjoying the experience.

“We have a lot of fun and simultaneously keep up to date and help each other to stay informed,” remarked Bayer. “The club definitely has a more academic focus than some of the other clubs you might find on campus, but I'd be willing to bet we have a lot more fun too!”

Written by Gregory Rycharski ‘16

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