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New Model UN Team Makes its Debut

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    Members of the new Model UN team pose for a group photo. (photo by Carlos Barron)
    Carlos Barron

Program helps students learn about intergovernmental politics

For the past month, nine Southwestern students have spent hours researching and collaboratively writing about the politics and culture of Colombia. While this is not unusual for college students, these students are not working for a grade or credit hours.

The students are members of Model United Nations (Model UN), an international organization that educates high school and college students about intergovernmental politics, including diplomacy, civics, communication and globalization.

Sophomore Alexis Kropf revived Southwestern’s Model UN team last semester after it had been dormant for several years.

The new team will make its formal debut Nov. 5-7 by participating in a Model Organization of the American States (MOAS) conference hosted by St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. At this conference, multiple colleges will represent specific North and South American countries in a mock-UN gathering. Southwestern’s team will represent Columbia, and will work with other teams to develop solutions to a variety of problems facing the two continents.

Southwestern students attending the conference are Fox Buchele, Leigh Daniel, Eric Gonzales, Kate Hayden, Alexis Kropf, Kylie Leblanc, Carl Martin, Katherine Tanner and Jimmy Wade.

“This is a way for our new Model UN Team to learn the ropes from other university teams around Texas,” said Tanner, a first-year student who is majoring in political science. “We are a new but determined team. I look forward to ‘roll playing’ as a delegate of Columbia and an expert on trade and the tourism industry. I also look forward to discussing our policies as well as future plans and resolutions with other delegates. I also think it will be really fun to meet new people from all around the state.”

At the conference, one or two students from each school will serve as a “delegate” on the following five committees:

  • The General Committee, which will focus on technology, public health and climate change;
  • The Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, which will focus on elections, security of travelers and migrants, and issues related to freedom of the press;
  • The Committee on Hemispheric Security, which will focus on food and water security, human services and ending violence;
  • The Department of Trade and Tourism, which will focus on promoting sustainable tourism, diversification of energy and water resources, and increasing trade; and
  • The Inter-American Board of Agriculture, which will focus on agricultural subsidies, migrant farm workers and sustainable development of crops.

“Although we split into specific committees, we had to prepare by learning all the general policies of Colombia,” Kropf said. “We have to know about it well enough to argue for the country’s interests, even if we disagree with them. It not only helps you to speak diplomatically and forcefully, it also really helps to understand the viewpoint of another country.”

Kropf said she decided to revive the Model UN team at Southwestern after enjoying the program in high school. “I knew my college career wouldn’t be complete without it,” she said.

Kropf said that senior Sarah Gould, who started the Southwestern Mock Trial team, motivated her to start the new program. “Though I actually wasn’t here to see Sarah create the Mock Trial team, I was able to work with her and see the success of the team in its second year. Her story was truly my inspiration to work to revive Model UN,” Kropf said.

Although the process was not as difficult as bringing a new club to campus, Kropf and a few other interested students did have a relative amount of work to do. Part of the process included revising the constitution, making it more fluid and feasible for a small membership and working on the club’s mission. The students applied for and received a grant from the McMichael Fund at Southwestern to support the team. They also received funding and support from the Political Science Department.

Kropf said the Model UN team is not limited to political science majors, though. Kropf herself is a Spanish and biology double major. Other majors represented on the team include business, communications, environmental studies and psychology.

“Model UN is good for any major really because it keeps you up to date with current events,” Kropf said. “The program provides a way to see the ‘big picture’ application of much of the history, philosophy and science we encounter at a school like Southwestern. As a biology major, I enjoyed learning about global topics we do not see much of in my technique-based classes.”

Club members hope to eventually attend Model UN conferences, which will be larger than the MOAS conference, which is patterned after the Organization of American States. While Model UN and MOAS are different, they have a very similar structure and incorporate the same skill sets.  

The team hopes to attend at least one conference a semester. Their long-term goal is to host a conference at Southwestern.

-Mikaela Santini ‘10