SF State's UN Team Awarded
SF State UN Team Brings Home Award From New York
April 27, 2006 9:02 PM
Representing the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, SF State’s delegation received an award from the national Model United Nations conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York. It is their first one in 10 years of participation.
“It took a lot of teamwork, we stayed in character,” said 23-year-old Denis Rajic, an international relations major and president of the Model U.N. club. Although none of the team members are Laotian, they must be well versed in the politics and culture of the region to participate in the mock summit.
The delegation from SF State won Honorable Mention, the third of three levels of awards. According to Rajic, of the roughly 300 schools from around the world that send delegations to the conference, only 30 are recognized with awards (10 of each tier), placing SF State’s delegation in the top 10 percent.
Rajic said the awards are given based on how accurately the student delegates represent their countries and how well they work together to accomplish their goals. Since SF State represented Lao PDR at the conference, the delegates had to behave as actual Laotian representatives would at a U.N. conference.
“You have to be realistic,” said Rajic, citing the example that Lao PDR, as a small country, would not try to dominate negotiations as the United States would. “We tried to represent Laos as factually as possible.”
Rajic would like to see more interest in the Model U.N. club and class, and the award might assist in drawing in students.
“We hope it’s going to help us recruit,” he said.
The Model U.N. meets as a club in the fall, then the class is offered in the spring. The delegates who attend the conferences – the New York conference and the Model United Nations Far West conference in South San Francisco this year – are selected from the class.
Professor JoAnn Aviel, who is IR department chair, instructor of the Model U.N. class and adviser to the club, said priority is given to graduating seniors and to students who are well informed about the issues that will be discussed at the conference.
The country the delegation represents at the conferences stems from the number of students the Model U.N. class can afford to send. This year, the class was able to send 11 delegates to New York.
Aviel hopes the recognition from the conference will help to bring more funding to the class, which would mean sending more students to the Big Apple.
“Some would like to send a larger delegation,” said Aviel, pointing out that it would allow SF State to represent some of the larger countries at the conference.
Ko Ko Lay, a graduate student from Burma, said Model U.N. has given him valuable experience for his future career. He is studying social change design and international conflict resolution.
“The U.N. doesn’t do enough to change Burma,” Lay said. “My passion is for peace and social justice in my country.”
Lay, a Free Burma activist, hopes to someday hold a diplomatic position so he can work to improve unstable conditions in his home country.
“I want to learn the U.N. system,” Lay said. “I want to learn about intergovernmental organizations.”
Rajic said it was nice for a team from SF State to be recognized for the first time in 10 years, but the experience students get from participating in Model U.N. is most important.
“It shouldn’t be about awards,” Rajic said. “It’s about the learning process.”
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