by Shannon Gleba, Staff Writer
As their conference in NYC on April 14-18 nears, the Model United Nations course taught by Professor Pamela Chasek, Ph.D, is in its final stages of research and preparation.
The Model United Nations course, offered by Manhattan College’s government and politics department, gives students the hands-on opportunity to learn more about the UN system and to gain knowledge about the specific country they are representing.
According to senior international studies major Natalia Alvarez, Model UN is a great way to become better educated about current events and to meet new people.
“The class is a rundown of what the UN system does while we are representing a specific country and their position. So, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the country that we represent even if we agree with the ideologies or not. We talk about different topics and different committees, such as environmental topics, human rights topics, gender rights topics and social topics. We get to really know about the country’s background and the country’s position and just about the UN system as a whole and you get to meet new people who have the same interest as you,” said Alvarez.
Model UN is offered as a credit-granting course during each spring semester, but is also a club in the fall semester, when the group attends a conference in D.C. During the fall of 2018, the club was tasked with representing the United States, while they are instead delegates for Cuba for the upcoming conference.
Senior psychology major Jacob Sarasin has been part of Model UN since transferring to MC as a sophomore. He has participated for the past three years in both the club and course setting and sees the benefits of both.
“Model UN is divided up into two sections every [academic] year. The first section is a completely different country than the second section. So, fall semester we had the United States. So, we had to do research on the United States, and I was the on the United Nations development program. So, I worked on infrastructure, and creating green cities, sustainable urban development- things like that.”
“And that is a club, that is not a class, there is no credit involved, it is all just because you want to be there. It essentially has the same return on investment as taking the class, except you don’t get the credits, you are just doing it for the love of the UN.”
Junior political science major Parveen Rampersaud is new to Model UN and appreciates the style of the class because it gives a comprehensive understanding of the UN system.
“We spend a day on the rules and procedures of what is going to go down in the Model United Nations, we spent about two or three weeks on the stimulation so we are prepared when we get there how to negotiate with people, how to better research, have impromptu speeches, develop speeches formally and impromptu,” said Rampersaud.
Chasek, who has been teaching at MC since 1997 and has been a full-time faculty member since 2000, thinks the course’s hands-on approach is beneficial to learning.
“I think the most important part of the course is the fact that students have to think of themselves as representatives of another country that may have views on policy different from their own. It gives students a different perspective of the world and international and domestic policy making,” said Chasek.
The 24 members of the Model UN are split into pairs and are assigned a committee to participate in, including committees like UNEA, UNESCO, the Human Rights Council and the Special Committee for Peace-Keeping Operations, among many others.
In these pairs, the students work together to develop a position on three assigned topics and they write a paper about their country’s stance.
Sarasin said, “Position paper take three weeks, and they are the most stressful part of the class. They are when you are doing all of the work essentially. I remember there were nights when I would be with my partner until 7:30, or 8:30 at night, knocking out three or four-hour sessions working on the stuff. It is a collaborative project, you work with your partner, you both write part of the paper and then two or three weeks later you submit it. It goes through a couple different iterations of drafts, and then you submit it like two months before the conference starts, something like that. And then the judges look at it and grade you on it. Then, depending on how good it is, you might win an award on it.”
The experience of writing these papers is very similar to the job that many United Nations delegates have. The students of the class are also very thankful that the course is true to the process of the United Nations system because Chasek has extensive experience working within the system.
In addition to authoring many books, Professor Chasek said, “My area of research is United Nations negotiations on environment and sustainable development. In addition, I do work at the United Nations as part of my work as executive editor of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, a reporting service on UN environment and development negotiations.”
Kaylyn Atkins, a junior in the course said, “I don’t think other schools might have that opportunity to have a professor like that, she’s awesome.”
In the long-run, the Model UN course provides students with many skills that will empower them within their professions, whether they are centered in diplomacy or not.
Sarasin said, “I am in Model UN because I enjoy the experience and I think that it gives me experience in a bunch of skills that are incredibly important to me. You learn how to public speak because you have to give speeches. In between the times when you’re working, you are giving speeches on the things that you care about, so you are speaking in front of one hundred to two hundred people and I mean there are not a whole lot of opportunities to do that.”
“You work on team work, you work on working under pressure, combining a bunch of ideas, collaboration, it’s a lot of the skills that you need in the workforce, or you will need later in life that you are just getting an opportunity to practice, which is really cool.”
Chasek also agrees with the importance of Model UN in the development of students skills for the workforce and said in an email, “Through Model UN students learn how to work with a partner and in small groups. Students learn how to speak in front of large groups of people (300 people or so), negotiate and interact with people from difficult countries and different cultures. Over 60 percent of the participants come from outside the United States. Students learn how to stand and deliver. All of these skills are useful in the workplace (no matter what their career) and in graduate school and law school. These are all “real world skills” and you can’t learn them only in the classroom.”
On top of the invaluable occupational skills students gain as a part of Model UN, the group also becomes forms a strong bond and are able to meet many people from around the world.
Alvarez said, “I enjoy becoming really close with the Manhattan College group because
be all become close because we are struggling with the same issues in conference, or frustration because we are all really tired. And also, meeting people from different parts of the world or the United States and just being more informed about what is happening with current issues today.”
Atkins said, “I think my favorite part is being in the actual conference. I have never met so many people from around the world that I am still friends with after the conference. I guess just the people and the experience in and of itself, because it is different every time.”