Model UN club will take on world issues at Harvard

Model+UN+President+Colin+Santee+discusses+the+club%0A%28photo+by+Victoria+Greenia%29
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Model UN club will take on world issues at Harvard

Model UN President Colin Santee discusses the club
(photo by Victoria Greenia)

Model UN President Colin Santee discusses the club (photo by Victoria Greenia)

Model UN President Colin Santee discusses the club (photo by Victoria Greenia)

Model UN President Colin Santee discusses the club (photo by Victoria Greenia)

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Most people only hear second-hand about the discussions brought to the United Nations. Hard decisions on what to do, if anything, about allegations of chemical weapons used on Syrian citizens or how to stabilize the tumultuous country of Mali are left to a global handful of individuals and the average citizen is left feeling removed from the process.

However, this year seven students from Johnson State College will be traveling to Boston Feb. 13-16 to take part in the 60th session of the Harvard National Model United Nations.

There, according to the HNMUN website, the students will combine with more than 3,000 other college students from around the world to “discuss the greatest challenges facing the world today, in fields ranging from international peace and security to economic and social progress and human rights.”

President of the Model UN club at JSC is Colin Santee, a senior with a double major of biology and political science. He said each college will be assigned a country to represent and the team members are expected to research the history, opinions, traditions, cultures, and challenges facing that nation. Armed with this knowledge the group will go to Boston to present a resolution on an appointed topic.

“International relations drive everything,” Santee said. “Political interactions affect everything in our lives. People need to make themselves more aware of what’s going on.”

This is the first year that Johnson State will be participating, and the impetus to the movement was David Plazek, a new associate professor of political science at the college. He has been to the HNMUN with students from the prior school he worked at, Lyndon State College, and felt it was an important experience that should be offered to JSC students. He said although it may be a small pebble in a large pond, this program is a step closer toward global peace.

“Science has told us we classify people into in-groups and out-groups,” he said. “… Meeting people of different religions or parts of the world you don’t understand and getting to know them makes them less threatening. You understand their hopes and dreams, which makes you more tolerant. Tolerance contributes to peaceful outcomes.”

In his experience there are representatives from India, China, Spain, and Latin American and African countries. At night, he said, the hotel was “littered with excited and energetic young people” as they connected with each other, working on a resolution or laying down networks. It’s this synergy, he said, that will help change the world.

The students will be staying at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel where the conference will be held. Plazek said a high, professional standard is expected of all the participants in how they dress and conduct themselves. He said an open mind and commitment is a must.

Santee said roughly 30 people have expressed an interest in the Model UN so far. The final selection of the candidates will take place near the end of November and they will be chosen by their dedication and decorum. He said good candidates are people who have persuasive reasoning, diplomacy, and tact.

“This is not just for poli-sci students,” he said. “These are good skills for any students to learn because this type of interaction is what you will use in the workforce.”

The club is searching for a more permanent home but is for now is meeting at 5:00 on Thursdays in the WLLC’s Humanities lounge. There is still time for people who are interested in networking with students from across the world to get involved and Santee invited people to email him for more details.

The program will not cost candidates money out of their own pockets thanks to a $9,000 grant received from the President’s Fund. This money secures a spot at the next two HNMUNs for JSC students to “step out of their shell and see the world in a global way,” according to Plazek.

One student ready to expand her horizon is Jennifer Many, a sophomore majoring in environmental science with a minor in pre-law. She said she’s always been interested in other cultures but college has made her even more curious about their politics as well.

Making the club’s meetings has been difficult for her since they start at 5 and she has a class until 5:30, but she is determined to be one of the lucky ones to go to Boston to represent JSC. She said she’s eager to network with new people which may lead to traveling or even job opportunities.

“This is such a great opportunity for a first-hand chance to meet people from other countries,” she said. “I would never have been able to do this in high school.”

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